If you are the dependent of a service person who passed while serving his or her country, you may be eligible to receive educational grants designed specifically for you. Some grants can offer full reimbursement of higher education expenses while others offer partial reimbursement. There are two specific grant programs you will want to research first: Federal Pell grants, Iraq and Afghanistan service grants.
Determining your eligibility for military dependent scholarships and grants begins with defining what it means to be a “dependent” for military education benefits purposes. Here are the basic criteria for “dependent” for the purposes of Federal Pell and Iraq and Afghanistan service grants.
- Course enrollment. You were enrolled in college or vocational (career) school on a part-time or full-time basis at the time of your parent’s or guardian’s passing.
- Age. You were 23 years of age or younger at the time of your parent’s or guardian’s passing.
If you are able to meet both of these eligibility criteria, you can qualify for one or both of these grant types.
Federal Pell Grants
Federal Pell grants are need-based grants. This means they are based on an overview and assessment of your financial need. Pell grants are not loans. They do not need to be repaid. As such, they can be an extremely valuable resource for affording college. The typical awardee is an individual who has not yet earned an undergraduate bachelor’s or other professional degree. Sometimes a student pursuing a post-baccalaureate teaching certification may also receive a Federal Pell grant award. Here are the basic criteria that will be evaluated to determine your eligibility for a Federal Pell grant and, if approved, the amount of the grant you will be awarded. If you are eligible and approved, your Federal Pell grant award will be for the maximum amount you qualify for. This amount is determined by assessment of the following.
- Your personal financial need
- The estimated cost of your education
- Your student status (full or part-time)
- Your academic plans (will you attend for less or more than one year)
- Your EFC (expected family contribution) meets need-based eligibility criteria
Once you have been deemed eligible through examination of each of these criteria, the amount you are awarded may change from year to year. For instance, in the 2013-2014 calendar year, the maximum Pell grant award is $5,645. This may change in the new calendar year and every year thereafter. You can choose payment options as follows.
- Have the grant office pay your school directly
- Have the grant office pay you directly
- Choose a combination of these payment methods
Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants
If you are not eligible for a Federal Pell grant, your next step will be to determine if you are eligible for the Iraq and Afghanistan service grants program. This education benefit is only open to dependents whose parent or guardian passed while serving and who are not eligible for Federal Pell grants. This will be determined by your EFC. If your EFC is too high to allow you to qualify for a Federal Pell grant, you can still qualify for Iraq and Afghanistan service grants as long as you meet the other Pell grant criteria as outlined here. If you qualify for Iraq and Afghanistan service grants, the amount you will be awarded will not exceed the maximum Federal Pell grant award in any calendar year. If you are awarded an Iraq and Afghanistan service grant before March 1annually, you can receive up to 10 percent more in education benefits. Once your grant has been awarded, your payment options are the same as if you were receiving a Federal Pell grant.
Other G.I. Bill Dependent Education Benefits
It is also important to point out that eligibility for a Federal Pell grant or Iraq and Afghanistan service grant does not mean you will not also be eligible for other dependent education benefits under the G.I. Bill or other scholarship programs. These benefits may include benefits transfers, Reservist or ROTC benefits, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits and more.
By starting early and carefully reviewing your eligibility for all available military dependent education benefits you could reduce or eliminate your college expenses.
Little girl and Army dad image By Technical Sergeant Cecilio M. Ricardo Jr., USAF [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
About the Author: Allie Grant is still mourning the loss of her dad, a brave Marine who died during the conflict in Iraq. She chose to honor his memory by being the first member of their family to earn her master’s degree.