Advice from veterans on using military financial aid

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Military members and their families make so many sacrifices for our country, so it’s no surprise that they get some financial aid perks. While the extra perks are great, it can get confusing when trying to navigate the already complicated world of financial aid.

To help make things a little easier for you, we sat down with some members of the armed forces to hear their stories and get some insider tips and tricks.

Here’s what they had to say:

Military Aid Gives You More Options

When I was 22 years old, I decided my college debt was piling up quickly and since I didn’t really have a clear direction or plan for my future, I decided to enlist in the Marine Corps. Upon receiving my honorable discharge in 2010, I decided to go back to school and complete my degree.

Since I had the GI Bill, I did not have to worry about tuition costs, plus my school (ASU) participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program. It’s a program that helps out of state students cover tuition costs that the GI Bill might not fully satisfy. 

The good news is, Arizona is a very veteran-friendly state, so I was able to get in-state tuition and use my GI Bill to cover the rest of my classes to get my Bachelor’s Degree.

With some time left on my GI Bill, I have been able to also acquire my Six Sigma Black Belt Certification and even my Master’s in Business Administration.

Without having enlisted in the Marines, I am not sure where I would have ended up. The military gave me skills and experience that I was able to partner with my education and give me a path to success.

Lance Corporal Chris R., USMC

Transfer the Benefits to Your Family Members

I enlisted in the Navy when I was 18 and served for 20 years as a helicopter mechanic. I had the opportunity to serve in some of the most prestigious units and work on some amazing aircraft (some of which the President of the United States even flew in)! 

After two decades and a large portfolio of certifications, awards, and travels —  I decided to retire. I was originally going to use my GI Bill to pursue a degree but realized my experience is extremely technical and I have almost every certification under the sun for aircraft I worked on.

Since I served so long, I decided to take advantage of the Post 9/11 Transfer Opportunity and offer my benefits to my daughter. She will be graduating high school within the next two years and I believe she will make much better use out of a college degree than me.

Chief Petty Officer, Doug V., USN-Retired

It Covers More Than a Just Traditional Education Paths

When I graduated from high school I knew that college wasn’t right for me. At the time, good-paying jobs were scarce and I did not see a lot of my friends going in the direction I wanted to follow. 

I went down to the recruiters’ office and at the age of 18 made the decision to enlist in the Army. I wasn’t sure what career path to take, so I reviewed my ASVAB scores with my recruiter to come up with some options for what I could do in the Army. I ended up going into Logistics and served four years.

After my four years were up, I decided not to re-enlist. During my time in the Army, I developed an interest in Electric Engineering and Machining and even got some hands-on training with my fellow soldiers. Being that college was still not something I was interested in, I discovered that the GI Bill covers vocational schools. I decided to apply to technical school and get trained in electrical and welding work.

I now work as a tooling operations manager for a local company back in my hometown in North Carolina. I make enough to support my family which includes my wife and two beautiful daughters. I appreciate the opportunities I was given and am glad that resources like the GI Bill are available to pursue non-traditional schools so we can provide for our loved ones.

Sgt. Tommy S., U.S. Army

Access to Business Loans to Help You Succeed

I was 22 and just recently graduated from college when I decided to go into the Air Force. I went through Officer School and was placed into the Public Affairs Division. My degree was in Business and Marketing and at the time I thought this was a great fit for me. After 8 years of service, I decided it was time for a change.

I got a job with an insurance agency for a few years and learned the ins-and-outs of the process. After a while, the company I worked for reminded me why I left the Air Force and I decided I could do this myself and be my own boss. I did some research into Veteran Small Business Loans. Particularly, the SBA Veterans Advantage 7(a) Loan. The loan gave me the money I needed to start my own business.   

I ventured out on my own with a business partner and we created our own insurance agency. Without learning higher-level business processes from both the Government and Private Sector, I think this might have been more difficult. But having that experience, and the Veteran Advantage Loan, really helped me turn my life around after the military.

Major Brandon H., U.S. Air Force

Reach Out to Your VA Representative for Help 

Regardless of which branch you entered, where you served, or how long you were enlisted – you have so many financial aid options available to you for college and beyond. You just have to know where to look. 

Sometimes, the internet can be a black hole of information, and it can get overwhelming. So, we suggest reaching out to your campus VA representative to help you with this process.

If you have questions along the way or need help filing your FAFSA®, the FRANK Team is here to help!