June 2, 2017, By Nicolas Chee, Contributor to The Student Loan Report – If you are a veteran and planning on returning to school, thank you for your service. Many veterans know that they have some benefits available to them, but they do not know what those benefits are or what steps they should take when they return to school. This can result in you missing out on many of the helpful benefits that are in place for you to enjoy.
In 2015, a whopping $16.4 billion was allocated to be used for veteran education benefits. Unfortunately, many of these benefits were never claimed and they sit on the table for years. Below, we will explore exactly what steps you should take and what benefits you need to look into as you return to school.
Educational and Academic Counseling Programs
Many colleges and universities have special veteran programs that help serve veteran students efficiently. It is important for you to check out these groups because they can be used to help you while you are in school. Many of the veterans’ programs focus on helping you choose the classes you need, helping you transition into college life, and even provide additional support for PTSD and depression.
In addition, most universities and colleges will assign you a specialized counselor that handles military student enrollment. These counselors understand the military benefits available to you and can refer you to other programs that you may be interested in as well.
A smooth transition is important and your dedicated military counselor and academic advisor can see to it that you do not run into any obstacles.
The GI Bill is an important benefit that you should look into and see if you qualify. Most veterans do qualify along with their family members. The GI Bill will help you pay for your education. The Post 9/11 GI Bill will pay up to 36 months of education benefits to the veteran. These benefits do not expire the moment you leave the military and can usually be used within 10 to 15 years from your separation.
In addition to education benefits, the GI Bill may provide you with an allowance to pay for supplies and books, as well as a monthly housing allowance.
The Post 9/11 GI Bill is not the only available GI Bill and you may qualify under and receive the Montgomery GI Bill too. Typically, the Montgomery GI Bill is for reservists and active duty military members.
Student Loan Options for Veterans
There are many loan programs available for veterans that will help when it comes to repayment. In fact, veterans are able to apply for and receive traditional federal loans, just like any other student. These loans may be paid back by a government institution and this means that you can have all of or part of your loan amount repaid for you.
Many of the veteran loan repayment programs require that you served active time in the military. Most of them require a 36-month active duty status. You will need to show proof that you meet this requirement. In addition, you should always be prepared to make your own student loan repayment amounts because loan forgiveness can take some time to get started and you do not want to default in the process.
The most common types of veteran student loans, besides the GI Bill, include the Leave No Veteran Behind Loan and Stafford Loan. Stafford loans are available to all students, but veterans can apply for them and they offer a lower interest rate, which will work to keep your payments low. Private education financing may also be available, if needed, to creditworthy veterans.
Explore Your Degree Program for Time Served
One option you may want to look into when you talk to your student academic advisor is whether or not any classes, experience, or programs you have or took while in the military will count towards your degree. For example, maybe you took some business classes while in the military and if credit is awarded for them, you may be able to graduate quickly and sooner than you expected to.
If your college is willing to accept these credits, you should work closely with your academic advisor and go over all of the courses and training you underwent.
As a veteran, you do have many options and benefits available to you. Unfortunately, many veterans do not know that benefits exist and they are left without the funding they need for their education. If you are interested in what benefits you can apply for, you should speak with your academic counselor right away.
In addition, you should work closely with the veterans’ clubs on campus as they can provide you with resources and references. You never know when you may need a hand and they will be there for you.