Financial aid for military dependants in the USA

A unique challenge is to provide counselling for children of military personnel who wish to pursue a college education or vocational training.

Often the challenge for guidance counsellors is to not only help the graduating senior find the right post secondary educational fit, but also help the seniors and their families figure out how to finance the endeavor.

As with most of the other graduating seniors, guidance counsellors have encouraged the students in the United States to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), but now recent changes in federal legislation give guidance counsellors a few more tools in their financial tool kits when counselling students who are the sons and daughters of military personnel and veterans.

The New GI Bill

On June 30 2008, Congress passed the 'Post 9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-252)', known as the 'New G.I. Bill'. Two years later, Congress passed the 'Post 9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-377)', more commonly referred to as the 'New G.I. Bill 2.0'.

Now, active duty military and veterans are able to transfer their unused tuition benefits to their dependants for college and non-college degree programmes. The G.I. Bill 2.0 expanded the eligibility criteria to include full-time active guard and reserve members. This means that the dependants of National Guard, Coast Guard, and reserve members are eligible for the tuition benefits along with members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines.

The main benefit is that the federal government will pay up to the tuition cost of the most expensive public college in that state (e.g. in New York State the cost is currently = $17,500). There are additional benefits to help defray educational expenses (i.e. cost of books) and pay for certification or testing fees. Overseas programmes and vocational training programmes may also be eligible. Students who want to attend a private college may do so using this benefit. The college, (public or private), or vocational programme must simply be approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The Yellow Ribbon Programme

The cost of attendance at private colleges is typically higher than public colleges. To help defray the cost differential, guidance counsellors should tell their military families about the Yellow Ribbon programme.

This federal programme enrolls private colleges which agree to match up to ½ of the cost differential between the most expensive public college and the private college’s tuition for the student. (Matching fund amounts vary by institution).

The Department of Veterans Affairs has enrolled over 1,100 private colleges nationally in the Yellow Ribbon program. 

Students with an intellectual disability

For military parents whose children have an intellectual disability (ID), changes in the Higher Education Opportunities Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-315), make it possible for students to receive some forms of financial aid even if they are not enrolled full-time in a degree bearing programme.

In order to be eligible for Federal Student Aid, the student must be enrolled in a US Department of Education approved Comprehensive Transition and Postsecondary (CTP) program. To apply the New G.I. Bill and Yellow Ribbon program tuition benefits the CTP must also be approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs as an educational provider.

Ernst O. VanBergeijk, Ph.D., M.S.W., is the Associate Dean & Executive Director, and Paul K. Cavanagh, Ph.D., M.S.W., is the Director of Academics and Evaluation, at New York Institute of Technology Vocational Independence Program. Nancy Borchers, B.S., is the Associate Registrar at New York Institute of Technology.

New York Institute of Technology proudly participates in the Post 9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act and the Yellow Ribbon benefit programs supporting our servicemen and women and their families.

New York Institute of Technology Vocational Independence Program (VIP) is a U.S. Department of Education approved Comprehensive Transition and Post-secondary (CTP) programme. VIP will apply separately for approval to participate in the Post 9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act and Yellow Ribbon tuition benefit programs for the 21012-2013 academic year.

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