More than 40 percent of all GI Bill eligible veterans miss out on using their benefits. In most cases it’s simply because time has ran out before the veterans had an opportunity to use it. The good news is that there are hundreds of programs to help veterans get a college degree and the GI Bill isn’t their only option.
Federal student aid programs are available for regular citizens as well as veterans who want to go to college. If you are a veteran applying for student aid, your interest rates are capped due to the Service Members Civil Relief Act. This means that you are not subject to the same interest rates; which are normally higher, as regular people applying for student loans.
There are also state veteran benefits available for former armed service personnel as well. These benefits vary from state to state and are aimed at providing financial support to veterans who plan to attend college.
Scholarships for veterans are plentiful and designed to encourage and support them in being able to obtain a college education. These are supported by both private and public funds and requirements and reward amounts depend on the actual scholarship program.
Many of these scholarships are national while others are private offerings through specific Colleges and Universities. If you are a veteran and looking to attend college, it would be a good idea to contact that school directly and see if they offer any scholarships for veterans at their institution. This may be a deal breaker for a veteran looking to go to college and rightfully so. It does not make sense to attend a college or university that offers absolutely no scholarship programs for veterans when there are plenty of other schools that do. In this scenario, it simply makes better financial sense to go to the school that gives you the most options in terms of monetary aid.
Ultimately, if you are a veteran planning on attending college and the GI Bill is no longer an option for you, there are plenty of replacements available that may be worth pursuing. National scholarships like the ones offered by the Pat Tillman Foundation can provide as a substitute or replacement for what originally would have been a GI Bill college sponsorship.
You can also focus your college search on Universities that offer their own scholarships designed to help veterans. For example, Michigan State University offers a MSU Disabled Veterans Assistance Program designed to provide financial support for disabled veterans at their school.
If you chose to go the private funding route, you have protection in terms of the interest rates you can be charged if you are still active duty at the time you acquire the loan. If this is the case, you cannot be charged more than 36% APR on any loan you receive. Although this applies to active duty military only, it still applies to National Guard and Reserves. So if you’ve finished your primary service but still stay involved via those avenues, you have protection under the Military Lending Act.