When you are in the military, you have the gold standard of educational support: today's new GI Bill offers unmatched financial support to cover a wide array of education needs including tuition, books and more. If you need more, don't forget to look at Kicker and Top-Up Tuition Assistance.
Before they were famous, many truly influential men and women started by serving their country in the US military or grew up in military families.

Student Loans, Military Scholarships, and the GI Bill

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Today, pursuing a higher education degree also means pursuing the financial support needed to cover all four or more years of schooling.

When you are in the military, you have the gold standard of educational support: today's New GI Bill offers unmatched financial support to cover a wide array of education needs including tuition, books and more.

If you need more, don't forget to look at Kicker and Top-Up Tuition Assistance to fill any financial gaps.

Then if you still need a bit more money to cover your higher education costs, look into government issued (public) or private student loans, military scholarships and larger scholarship opportunities.

PUBLIC STUDENT LOANS: STAFFORD LOANS

Government Stafford Loans offer the advantage of a relatively low, fixed interest rate set by Congress. In 2007, the interest was 6.8%, but a new federal law will cut that rate down to 3.4% over the next four years. (If you currently have a Stafford Loan at 6.8%, you may be able to negotiate it down to a lower interest rate by agreeing to direct withdrawal payments from your bank account.)

STAFFORD LOAN BENEFITS

Stafford Loans do not require a credit check; basically, everyone who wants to attend college is eligible. You don't need a relative to co-sign on this loan. Depending on your military income, you may be eligible to have the government pay your interest rate while you are still in school and 6-months after graduation; this is known as a Subsidized Stafford Loan.

To determine if you can receive this benefit, use the calculator at FAFSA4caster.ed.gov. This calculator will help you gather your family's income information needed to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, otherwise known as FAFSA.

STAFFORD LOAN DISADVANTAGES

Just as Congress sets the fixed interest rate, Congress also imposes a limit on how much money you can borrow for each year of college. Stafford Loan limits increase with each year, however, stating at $3,500 for Freshmen, $4,500 for Sophomores, and $5,500 for both Juniors and Seniors.

However, combined with your GI Bill, Kicker and Top-Up benefits, this could just be the small amount you need. Stafford Loans have limitations on your use of the loan. For example, you can use your Stafford Loan towards tuition, books, and housing fees - but not for personal credit card payments.

REPAYING YOUR STAFFORD LOAN

When it comes time to repay your Stafford Loan, you have a grace period of 6 months after graduation. Depending on how much you borrowed, your payment timeline can stretch between 10 and 30 years, making for very low monthly payments. a benefit that won't be taxing on your monthly military paycheck.

PUBLIC STUDENT LOANS: STATE LOANS

State-by-state education loans are also widely available. And state education loans are not limited to attending a state school in order to qualify. Keep in mind that State Education Loans may be more complicated to sort through and compare because they vary from state to state. And not every state offers State Education Loans. For your State Education Loan repayment, you often find a similar grace period to the Stafford Loans. Information about how to apply for state loans can be found in your financial aid package.

PRIVATE STUDENT LOANS: THE PROS

The best news about Private Student Loans is that they often have much higher loan limits than government student loans: up to $100,000 or higher, with a creditworthy co-signer. Private education loans can be requested at any time throughout your college career. There are no application deadlines. With a private student loan, you can gain access to your loan sometimes within a few days of loan approval.

You can also use private education loans to cover more of your educational needs including a computer, transportation, or other items needed to support your education and usually not covered by public education loans. Check your banks or credit unions to find out about the availability of a state issued private student loan.

PRIVATE STUDENT LOANS: THE CONS

Private Student Loans have interest rates that vary depending on your credit score: yet one more good reason to maintain a high credit score. If your credit score slips while you are in school, your private student loan interest rate can be negatively impacted. Not all private lenders are created equal; the responsibility is yours to research and choose a reputable private lender.

REPAYING YOUR PRIVATE EDUCATION LOAN

Keep in mind that Private Education Loans can't be refinanced or combined with government loans, which means you'll have at least two separate loan bills. Private Education Loans offer no grace period; you'll start repaying your private student loan while you're still attending school. On-time payments may reward you with small interest rate deductions.

MILITARY SMART EDUCATION

Before committing to an education loan, don't neglect to look into military scholarships- there are military scholarships for you, and for military children and spouses, too. For military spouses and dependents, the Dependents' Educational Assistance (DEA) offers up to 45 months of education benefits, for degree and certificate programs, apprenticeships, and on-the-job training, and/or correspondence courses. Speaking of military children, The Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) ROTC program provides full ROTC scholarships that pay for almost all tuition, fees and books charges for four years of college. ROTC scholarships are available for one, two and three-years of educational support.

Be sure to expand your scholarship search at collegeboard.com and finaid.org, to apply for aid from an even larger pool of scholarships and grants available for everyone, civilian and military.



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