5 Ways To Pay For College Without TA

Many military servicemembers were surprised when branches started suspending tuition assistance programs this week.  As you may know, I wasn’t very surprised because I thought this cut was coming years ago.  Regardless, there are lots of people who would like to continue pursuing their education but aren’t sure how to pay for it without tuition assistance.

Post 9/11 GI Bill

Active duty servicemembers may use their Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits while they are still serving.  This may not be the best option, as you lose the housing allowance portion of the benefit.  However, it is certainly still a good way to pay for classes without taking money out of your pocket.

Federal Aid

The federal government offers grants to students who are below a certain income level.  The most common is the Pell Grant.  Pell Grant facts:

  • you must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
  • awarded for undergraduate education and some post-graduate teacher certification programs.
  • maximum award for 2012-2013 school year is $5,500
  • actual award amount depends on financial need, cost of attendance, full- or part-time status, and number of months of assistance
  • grants do not have to be repaid
  • maximum of 12 full-time semesters of aid
  • most grants go to families with incomes of less than $30,000, but eligibility extends up to total family income of $60,000

School Assistance

Nearly every college, university or training school offers financial assistance to eligible students.  Most schools utilize the FAFSA as the first step in applying for their programs.  The amount or type of assistance offered by the school varies.  The school may offer grants that do not have to be repaid, scholarships that do not have to be repaid, fellowships that require some sort of service or educational commitment, or school loans.  The best place to learn about these options is through the school’s financial aid office.

Take Advantage of Tax Credits for Education

US taxpayers are eligible for generous tax credits if they have paid educational expenses during the tax year.  The rules tend to change from year to year, and even within the year if Congress is feeling crazy.  (Like recently.)

I want to put a nice, clear list of the tax deductions and credits here.  However, I feel like I would be putting myself in a bad place because it could well very be wrong next week, or next month.  This is a case where I encourage you to do an internet search for the exact correct information at the time that you take your classes, and also again when you complete your income tax return.  It is almost more of a “bonus” when you get this income tax credit because I don’t feel like we can accurately predict how much might be returned each year.

Private Scholarships

There are literally millions of dollars in college scholarships available every year.  I try to highlight the ones that apply to military families here at The Paycheck Chronicles.  Scholarship search engines such as FastWeb can help you search, and the staff at your base education office may be a good resource for potential sources of funding.  Check with your installation’s spouses’ clubs.  Some allow active duty to apply.  Mostly you just have to take time and energy to be regularly searching and applying.

Don’t let the suspension of Tuition Assistance programs make you postpone your education.  A solid bachelors degree in a marketable field will pay for itself several times over, and there are many ways to pay for those classes.  Keep studying!

About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.
  • James M. Horak
  • Jim Young

    So, I can’t get T.A. as a soldier but what if I was an illegal immigrant?

    • SpcDude

      You can’t get financial aid as an illegal immigrant you moron…besides financial aid is more than enough to cover you for the year..realistically you can take about 2 classes a semester and financial aid can cover that..besides you weren’t even taking classes otherwise you would know that this wont affect you just yet…you will still get the money for the classes you registered for

  • Jill

    I think Jim Young was referring to the fact that Colorado now offers reduced “in-state” tuition fees to illegal immigrants, though this isn’t specifically financial aid.

    Also, the TA being suspended does affect people who haven’t registered for classes yet. Not all schools have standard semester date requirements. Some will allow you to take online courses starting whenever you want. Even if they were already registered now, it’s still going to affect them for future courses.

  • Senior

    TA is a great benefit for those who have the chance to use it. It is not guaranteed or owed to service members but it allows those with time to optimize their education benefits. With the Post 911 G.I. Bill all service members have the financial ability to get an education. I do not see removal of TA as blocking any opportunity for a degree, it only removes double dipping.

  • dan

    So basically if you want to join the Army and you got an assiociates degree theywont pay it off anymore because of the cutbacks?

    • KateKashman

      Dan, what you are talking about is very different. Some branches of the military might offer student loan payments as a recruiting tool. This change applies to the program that pays tuition for folks who are currently on active duty. That said, recruiting benefits are being cut as well. There are very few fields offering to pay student loan payments for a military contract.

  • SSG A

    Senior I’m sorry but TA is owed to service members. it’s in my contract just like other service members. when I signed my contract the government gave it to me as compensation for my time in service. Now I haven’t used it or any of my other education benefits because of continued deployments, but it’s nice to know they can change their commitment to the contract I signed, while I continue to fulfill my end of the deal..

    • KateKashman

      SSG A, I have a huge favor to ask. Could you email me the part of your contract where it promises you tuition assistance? Use the Ask Kate link on the left hand side of the page. I have never seen that before, and I am really super-duper curious to see how it is worded. Thanks!

  • Michael Robinson

    Hello! Before everyone goes over the cliff regarding tuition assistance unless you are a Marine (absolutely no disrespect intended, in fact the opposite) there is substantial work occurring behind the scenes to unsuspend tuition assistance not only for the Army but Air Force and Navy as well. The SECDEF wants FTA reinstated and resinstated soon. Bills have been introduced in Congress to just that. Is this a major inconvenience to everyone concerned, absolutely yes. Hang in there and if everything goes correctly there may be a chance FTA at least for Army Soldiers including members of the Guard may be up and running to help those who are planning on enrolling in summer school classes. No FTA is a benefit and probably is not in the contract. However if this nation wants to maintain an all volunteer force and be able to compete for quality applicants then the benefits have to be there.