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The “8 Keys to Veterans' Success” program. The Department of Education has been working with America’s colleges and universities and employers on improving the educational experience of veterans. This effort also includes helping veterans and spouses achieve postsecondary success and led to the specific program “8 Keys to Veterans' Success.” More than 400 schools have signed on and agreed with these strategies, which should assist businesses in landing more qualified candidates.

  • An early alert system to ensure all veterans receive academic, career and financial advice before the challenges become overwhelming
  • Creating a centralized place on campus where veterans can gather, or possibly designating a space for them
  • Collaborating better with local communities and organizations

A list of the schools that have signed on can be found here. Contact one of them about ways you can better connect with their veteran students who are about to enter the civilian workforce.

Pell Grants. A Federal Pell Grant, unlike a loan, does not need to be repaid. These grants are usually awarded only to undergraduate students who have not earned a bachelor’s or a professional degree. (In some cases, however, a student enrolled in a postbaccalaureate teacher certification program might be eligible to receive a Federal Pell Grant.) Amounts can change yearly. The maximum Federal Pell Grant award is $5,730 for the 2014–15 award year (July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2015). The actual amount for which an individual qualifies will depend on financial need, cost of attendance, status as a full-time or part-time student, and plans to attend school for a full academic year or less. Individuals whose parent or guardian was a member of the U.S. armed forces and died as a result of military service performed in Iraq or Afghanistan after the events of 9/11 may be eligible for additional Federal Pell Grant funds or a special Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant.

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG). FSEOGs are provided for undergraduate students with exceptional financial need. Students who receive Federal Pell Grants and have the most financial need will receive FSEOGs first. Students can receive between $100 and $4,000 per year, depending on financial need. FSEOG does not need to be repaid. Since not all schools participate in this program, students should check with their school’s financial aid office.

Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH). The TEACH program provides grants of up to $4,000 per year to students who demonstrate financial need and who are completing or plan to complete course work needed to begin a career in teaching. As a condition for receiving a TEACH Grant, students must sign a TEACH Grant Agreement, agreeing to teach 1) in a high-need field; 2) in an elementary school, secondary school, or educational service agency that serves students from low-income families; and 3) for at least four complete academic years within eight years after completing (or ceasing enrollment in) the course of study for which the grant was received. If the service obligation is not completed according to the agreement, the funds will be converted to a Direct Unsubsidized Loan, which must be repaid.

Student loans. There are several types of student loans available from the federal government, including Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, Direct PLUS Loans, Direct Consolidation Loans and Federal Perkins Loans (a school-based loan program for students with exceptional financial need; under this program, the school is the lender). Undergraduate students can borrow up to $5,500 annually in Perkins Loans, and between $5,500 and $12,500 annually in Direct Subsidized or Unsubsidized Loans. Graduate students can borrow up to $8,000 annually in Perkins Loans, and up to $20,500 annually in Direct Unsubsidized Loans; the remainder of college costs not covered by other financial aid may be covered by a Direct PLUS Loan. Federal student loans are an investment in one’s future; while students should not be afraid to take out federal student loans, they should be smart about it. Federal student loans offer many benefits compared to other options, including that the interest rate is almost always lower than that on private loans, and much lower than that on a credit card.

Loan benefits for veterans. For all Direct Loans first disbursed on or after Oct. 1, 2008, no interest will be charged for a period of no more than 60 months while individuals are serving on active duty or performing qualifying National Guard duty during a war, other military operation or national emergency and are serving in an area of hostilities qualifying for special pay. Veterans qualify for deferment of repayment on any of their federal loans while serving on active duty in the military, or performing qualifying National Guard duty during a war, military operation or national emergency.

If the period of active duty service includes Oct. 1, 2007, or begins on or after that date, the deferment will be extended for an additional 180 days after the demobilization date for each period of qualifying service. Under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, for military personnel who took out student loans prior to entering the military or being called to active duty, the interest rate on those loans will be limited to 6 percent during active duty military service. This applies to both federal and private student loans (and other loans as well). For members of the National Guard or other Reserve component of the U.S. armed forces (current or retired) who are called or ordered to active duty while enrolled at least half time at an eligible school or within six months of having been enrolled at least half time, they qualify for deferment of repayment on their federal student loans during the 13 months following the end of active duty service, or until they return to school on at least a half-time basis, whichever is earlier.

College Work-Study. Federal Work-Study provides part-time jobs for undergraduate and graduate students with financial need, allowing them to earn money to help pay education expenses. The program encourages community service work and work related to the student’s course of study. Students should check with their school’s financial aid office to find out if the school participates.

For more information on these and other student aid opportunities, see StudentAid.ed.gov/types and click here.

Post-9/11 GI Bill. If your company offers tuition benefits to employees, it’s beneficial for you to understand the ins and outs of the Post-9/11 GI Bill and how it would replace or augment educational benefits that you are already providing. This program applies to those who have served on active duty for 90 or more days since Sept. 10, 2001, and benefits are tiered based on the number of days served. National Guard and Reserve members equally qualify.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill applies to those who have served on active duty for 90 or more days since Sept. 10, 2001.

Through the bill, the most comprehensive educational benefit package for veterans since the original GI Bill, veterans who qualify can get reimbursed up to 100 percent of tuition for a four-year degree. Those enrolled as full-time students are also eligible to receive a housing allowance between $1,000 and $2,000 a month to help cover additional expenses while in school. An annual book stipend of up to $1,000 is also available.

Montgomery GI Bill. Veterans who qualify can be eligible for up to $50,000 in benefits. They must have served at least two years on active duty and have contributed $100 a month for the first 12 months in active duty, or qualify under the Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP) conversion.

Additional benefits. Through the Post-9/11 GI Bill and other initiatives, the VA also offers veterans assistance in these areas:

  • Veterans who qualify can transfer their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to their spouses and children.
  • Veterans can receive reimbursements for certain licensing and certifications, as well as tests such as the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) and the Law School Admission Test.
  • Veterans can receive tutoring help, correspondence training and high-tech training.
  • Many states offer veterans additional tuition assistance.
  • Veterans can receive additional assistance if they have been called to active duty to respond to a war or national emergency. For more information on the GI Bill and other educational benefits, get fact sheets and forms on the Benefits.VA.gov site.

The Veterans’ Employment and Training Service, under the Department of Labor, prepares separating service members by preparing them for meaningful careers, providing employment resources and expertise, and protecting their employment rights. To dig into the ins and outs of what is available to both veterans and employers, visit DOL.gov/vets/.