Although military service isn't for everyone, it's a good way to help pay for college. If you're interested in entering the military, are currently serving, or have completed your service, use the information here to learn how paying for college can be a little easier. Make sure you consider both state and federal programs to find the resources that best match your military experience and educational goals. Your military recruiter or chain of command can also provide you with information on education benefits. Additional information, including general information to benefit veterans, is available through the Student Veterans of America (SVA) coalition and through the National Council of Higher Education Resources.
Be sure to also search for other assistance programs for which you might qualify. There are lists available on the Internet of colleges that classify themselves as "military friendly" or "veteran friendly". One such list is published by G.I. Jobs. (Please be advised that the accessibility of this list on this site should not be construed as ISAC's endorsement of any college that appears on the list.) Additionally, all Illinois public colleges and universities are required to publish results of a survey of the services and programs that are available for veterans, active duty personnel and their families.
ISAC administers two programs, the Illinois National Guard (ING) Grant Program and the Illinois Veteran Grant (IVG) Program, that provide benefits to assist you with paying for college. Applications for both programs are available in the Applications area of this site.
State of Illinois Programs
Students attending any of the University of Illinois campuses, who are Illinois residents whose mothers or fathers served in the U.S. Armed Forces during wartime, may be eligible for a Children of Veterans Tuition Waiver. For further information, contact the Office of Student Financial Aid at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
The Department of Veterans Affairs accepts and processes online applications for the Post-9/11 GI Bill via the Veterans ON-line APPlication (VONAPP) Web site. The Department of Veterans Affairs sends letters to applicants explaining their decision regarding eligibility for the program.
A chart entitled “Illinois MAP-Approved Schools Information Relating to the Post 9-11 GI Bill” provides tuition and fees information, as well as the base allowance for housing (BAH) rates (based on the ZIP code of the college) that a veteran student could be eligible for through the Post 9-11 GI Bill. The BAH rates are set by the Department of Defense on a calendar year basis, so these amounts could change on December 1 each year (the current chart provides rates for 2010, 2011 and 2012). This chart also provides information on which of these colleges are currently participating in Yellow Ribbon Program, including which students/programs are eligible, the number of veteran students the college will serve, and the maximum dollar amount of the college’s contribution per student. Please note that this is a list of Illinois MAP-approved colleges only and is not an exhaustive list of the colleges at which a veteran student can receive Post 9-11 GI Bill benefits.
For many eligible veterans, the Post-9/11 GI Bill provides more attractive benefits than other veteran education benefit programs, however, veterans should carefully review all their options before making the irrevocable decision to apply for and utilize Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. As you consider different scenarios, pay careful attention to the differences that occur when changing from full-time to half-time, as well as to the amount of the housing allowance you would be eligible to receive based on the location of the school you would be attending.
In addition to reviewing the amount of monetary benefits, students should also consider the following:
- What type of training or education are you planning to pursue?
- Is the timeframe to utilize benefits important to you?
- Are you eligible for the transfer of entitlement benefits through the Post-9/11 GI Bill Program?
- Do you have remaining entitlement under other VA education programs?
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs also provides several benefit comparison tools to help you better understand all your federal benefit options.
Important information regarding the Post-9/11 GI Bill - including a summary of changes based on the Post-9/11 Veterans Education Assistance Improvements Act of 2010 and a February 2011 letter that explains these changes to veterans, as well as a “Road Map for Success” resource - is provided at the Post-9/11 GI Bill section of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website.
Online Access to VA Payment Information
If you receive benefits through the Montgomery GI Bill - Active Duty (Chapter 30), Montgomery GI Bill - Selected Reserve (Chapter 1606) or Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP, or Chapter 1607), you may access your Veterans Affairs (VA) payment information using VA's Web Automated Verification of Enrollment (WAVE) system by logging in with your name, claim number (which is generally the Social Security number), and the same password used when you certify your monthly enrollment (although REAP recipients do not verify monthly attendance, they can still use this system to access payment information). Once logged in, select the "Benefits Status Information" link. Under the "Your School Attendance" section, you will be able to see the dates and monthly rate payable for the enrollment period(s). The information may be printed for financial aid and other purposes.
The U.S. Departments of Education and Defense offer the Troops to Teachers program to help military personnel begin a new career as teachers in public schools. Illinois Troops for Teachers provides information specific to teaching in Illinois, including teacher certification requirements, information about teaching degree programs and assistance in locating employment opportunities.
Children of military personnel - active duty, reserve, guard, retired or deceased - may be eligible to receive a scholarship that will pay tuition, books, lab fees and other related college expenses through the Scholarships for Military Children Program.
The National Board of Certified Counselors Foundation (NBCCF) offers military scholarships to provide financial support to service members and veterans who are currently enrolled in a master's level CACREP-accredited counseling program and who commit to serving military personnel after graduation.
The Associated Colleges of Illinois provides the Illinois Veterans Choice Scholarship Fund to supplement other financial aid veterans may receive to attend private colleges.
Student Loan Repayment
Most branches of the U.S. Armed Forces offer student loan repayment programs. For information about the requirements, eligible loans and the repayment schedule, contact your recruiter or chain of command.
ISAC partner Mapping Your Future provides valuable student loan advice for troops and their families to help in ensuring that student loan obligations continue to be met during deployment or reassignment.
The U.S. Department of Education (ED) has developed a brochure entitled "For Members of the U.S. Armed Services: What You Need to Know About Your Federal Student Loan Benefits,” which is designed to highlight the special benefits available to members of the U.S. military. This free resource, which may also be accessed via the Resources page of Federal Student Aid’s StudentAid.gov, is divided into three parts: special benefits and repayment options available to service members; helpful tips for active duty or deployed service members; and, useful student loan resources.
Another online resource for members of the military is the National Council of Higher Education Resources (NCHER) Servicemembers - Educational Benefits page, which offers a high-level summary of the major federal educational benefits and programs available to members of the U.S. Armed Services.
If you have any questions about your loan and/or grant amounts, outstanding balances, disbursements, loan statuses, and loan servicers, check with the My Federal Student Aid website or the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS).