If you're interested in entering the military, are currently serving, or have completed your service, the information on this page is intended to help you learn more about the education benefits that may be available to you. Be sure to research both state and federal programs to find the resources that best match your military experience and educational goals. Additional information about educational benefits for service members and veterans is available through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
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. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) documents are available to highlight important facts about both the ING Grant Program and IVG Program, and applications for both programs can be accessed on the Applications page of this website.
State of Illinois Programs
Students attending any of the University of Illinois campuses who are Illinois residents and who have a parent who 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.
Illinois Joining Forces (IJF) is a statewide network of public and private organizations that provide services and support for service members, veterans, and their families. The IJF website provides an extensive list of available resources that can be identified through a search tool based on the types of support services needed, and resources can then be accessed through a referral service that provides direct contact to the supporting organization(s).
In order to make program information available at the school-level, all Illinois public colleges and universities are required to provide an annual report of the services and programs that are available for veterans, active duty personnel and their families at their institution. These reports are accessible on the schools’ websites, and a list of available reports can also be found on the Illinois Board of Higher Education’s website.
Federal Programs – U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
The federal government is a key resource for service members and veterans who need help paying for college. Visit the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs website to learn more about GI Bill benefits, as well as other sources of financial aid.
The gateway to all of your VA benefits is at ebenefits.va.gov .
Federal Programs – U.S. Department of Education (ED)
In addition to the state and federal military programs, there are other student financial aid options that may be available to you as a U.S. citizen and/or resident of Illinois. To apply for federal grant and loan programs, as well as some other state programs, be sure to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which is available online.
At its studentaid.gov website, the U.S. Department of Education provides a section for service members and their families which explains the steps of the financial aid process and provides links to resources and information on available programs.
Combining State and Federal Benefits
While the Post-9/11 GI Bill may provide more attractive benefits than other veteran education benefit programs for some eligible veterans, all options should be carefully reviewed before making the irrevocable decision to apply for and utilize Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.
When considering different scenarios, students should pay careful attention to the differences that occur when changing from full-time to half-time enrollment status, as well as to the amount of the monthly basic allowance for housing (BAH), which will vary based on the location of the school.
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?
Combining the Post-9/11 GI Bill with the IVG or ING Grant
For those with 100% eligibility for the Post-9/11 GI Bill, it may be the best option to use Post-9/11 instead of IVG or the ING Grant. However, for those with less than 100% eligibility for the Post-9/11 GI Bill, it may be necessary to also use IVG or ING Grant benefits to help cover remaining tuition and fee charges not covered by the VA.
Effective July 1, 2020, for veterans who are eligible for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits and choose to use those benefits with IVG or ING Grant benefits in the same term, the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits will be applied first (regardless of whether, based on length of service, the veteran is eligible for those benefits at 100% or at less than 100%), and any remaining eligible charges for tuition and fees will be covered by IVG or ING Grant benefits. Further details, including an explanation and example of how eligibility units are assessed, are provided within the “Post-9/11 GI Bill” sections of the IVG and ING Grant pages of this website.
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.
If you have questions about your loan and/or grant amounts, outstanding balances, disbursements or loan statuses, check with the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS).
Military Prior Learning Assessment (MPLA)
Many institutions have prior learning assessment (PLA) policies that could allow you to receive college credit for learning that you may have gained outside of school, such as learning you’ve gained through formalized military training or other life experiences.
Receiving college credit for previous learning experiences can help you earn your degree faster and at a lower cost.
Consult with an advisor at the institution you are attending or planning to attend to learn more about the school’s policies and options in regard to learning experiences you have had while in the military.
Some resources that can help you learn more about military prior learning assessment include:
- Transferology.com is a tool that may help you determine how your military learning experiences will be treated at a specific institution if that institution has joined the Transferology system.
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.
ISAC has compiled a list of several resources that are available to help service members, veterans and their family members navigate the college planning and financial aid process.