GI funding for school is one of the main perks of joining the military. You can qualify for these funds if you served as little as 90 days — or less if you received a Purple Heart or were injured during your service. If your GI benefits don’t cover the full cost, there are several other scholarships you can apply for — with typical awards between $1,000 and $3,000 a year.
The Post 9/11 GI Bill offers financial aid programs to veterans through the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). These programs can cover full or partial tuition, as well as a monthly housing allowance and annual book stipend for an undergraduate or graduate degree program — in addition to non-degree job training such as a licensing program or apprenticeship. Rural residents can also receive a one-time benefit. You can only enroll in one program at a time and receive a total of four years of funding.
Between 20% and 100% of your MHA, depending on the length of your program.
Books and supplies
$1,000 per year
Relocation or travel from a rural area
One-time payment of up to $500
What percentage of the benefit can I receive?
Depending on your length of service, you might not be eligible for full benefits. Here’s how it breaks down:
Length of service after September 10, 2001
Percentage of maximum benefit
30 to 35 months
24 to 29 months
18 to 23 months
12 to 17 months
6 to 11 months
3 to 5 months
You’re eligible for 100% of the benefit if you were discharged due to a service-related disability after 30 continuous days of service. Purple Heart recipients are also eligible for the full benefit regardless of how much time you’ve served.
Get additional funding through the Yellow Ribbon Program
If you’re eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you might be able to get more funding through the Yellow Ribbon Program for out-of-state or private school tuition. The program will match the scholarships and grants you receive from your school to cover tuition and fees.
To qualify, you must be eligible for the full maximum benefit under the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Your school also must participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program and have enough funding available.
6 more financial aid programs for veterans
If the GI Bill isn’t enough — or you just can’t qualify — consider these scholarships instead.
Award amount: $1,000 a year — up to four years
Eligibility requirements: Proof of veteran or active-duty status, US citizen, demonstrate financial need, high school diploma or equivalent, enrolled or accepted to an eligible program, no defaults on federal loans, no drug convictions, no dishonorable discharges
American Veterans (AMVETS) awards this small scholarship to three veterans or active-duty service members each year. If you qualify, you can use the funds for part-time or full-time undergraduate courses, graduate courses, accredited degree or certificate programs, or online programs.
To apply, you must submit documents verifying your eligibility, in addition to a short essay. You can apply between January 20th and April 30th for the 2020 scholarship cycle. Recipients will be announced on June 20, 2020.
Dr. Aurelio M. Caccomo Family Foundation Memorial Scholarship
Award amount: $3,000 a year — up to four years
Eligibility requirements: Same as AMVETS’s requirements
Also available through AMVETS, this program works a lot like the AMVETS Scholarship but with higher funding amounts — and only two veterans receive the funds each year. The application process and eligibility requirements are the same as the regular AMVETS Scholarship.
NBCC Foundation Military Scholarship
Award amount: $8,000
Eligibility requirements: Currently enrolled in a Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)-accredited master’s-level counseling program in good standing, veteran with an honorable discharge or active-duty service member, on track to graduate within three years of receiving funding
The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) Foundation offers this scholarship to five veterans, service members or family of service members per academic year. To qualify, you must be in a counseling-related program.
You also must commit to become a National Certified Counselor (NCC) before graduation, and agree to serve veterans and service members for at least two years after graduating. You can apply online through the NBCC website.
Society of Sponsors of the US Navy Centennial Scholarship Program
Award amount: $3,000 per academic year
Eligibility requirements: Combat-wounded veteran of the Marine Corps or Navy injured either during Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation New Dawn; enrolled full time in an accredited college or university; pursuing a teaching degree or license; maintain a 2.5 GPA or higher
Former Marines and Navy veterans pursuing a teaching degree are eligible for this scholarship, as long as you were injured during one of three military operations.
You can apply at any time during the academic year by mailing in your completed paper application, official transcript, active-duty release form (DD Form 214) and an essay. You can receive funding for multiple years, but you need to reapply each year to qualify.
Sarah A. Bonnifield Vietnam Veterans Scholarship Fund
Award amount: $1,000
Eligibility requirements: Vietnam veteran or relative pursuing a degree at an accredited university
If you or a family member served in Vietnam, you might be eligible for this scholarship program. You’ll need to provide two letters of recommendation and an essay on the roles and significance of the US Air Force in Vietnam, in addition to proof of service. Applications are due on March 6, 2020.
43d Infantry Division Veterans Association Scholarship
Award amount: $1,000 a year
Eligibility requirements: Member of the 43rd Infantry Division Veterans Association in good standing or a family member
Each year, the 43rd Infantry Division Veterans Association awards four members or their family members this scholarship to cover education-related expenses. You can request an application form by writing to the scholarship fund or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
What are my other options?
Chances are you won’t be able to cover all of your costs with scholarships specifically for veterans — especially if you don’t qualify for GI Bill funding. You might want to consider these options as well:
Need-based grants. Schools and private organizations typically offer these funds based on financial need, and you don’t need to be a veteran to qualify.
Merit-based scholarships. You can also find funding from your school and private organizations based on your academic achievement or talent — like athletics or music. Check out our A-to-Z list of scholarship programs to get started.
Work-study. The federal government and some schools offer work-study programs where you can cover part of your cost of attendance (COA) with wages from a qualifying on- or off-campus job.
Your best bet for funding a degree as a veteran is applying for educational assistance through the Post 9/11 GI bill. If that doesn’t cover your full COA, you might be able to qualify for smaller amounts of funding through scholarships specifically available to veterans. But you might also want to check out our guide to student loans to learn more about your funding options.
Frequently asked questions
To qualify as a veteran for federal aid, you must have served in the US armed forces, be a National Guard or Reserve enlistee called to active duty or be a cadet or midshipman at a service academy. You also must not have been dishonorably discharged.
You can if you meet the expected family contribution and cost of attendance requirements for a Pell Grant. There aren’t any specific Pell Grant funds available to veterans, however.
The Veterans Assistance Program is a VA-run program that offers veterans and their families help finding affordable housing, health care and mental health services, and employment. You can apply online through the VA’s eBenefits website.
Anna Serio is a trusted lending expert and certified Commercial Loan Officer who's published more than 1,000 articles on Finder to help Americans strengthen their financial literacy. A former editor of a newspaper in Beirut, Anna writes about personal, student, business and car loans. Today, digital publications like Business Insider, CNBC and the Simple Dollar feature her professional commentary, and she earned an Expert Contributor in Finance badge from review site Best Company in 2020.
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