If you’ve made the decision to earn the college degree you need for an incredible career and future, chances are you’ve already started looking at how much your education will cost … and how to make it easier on your bank account. To avoid undue stress over financing (and get you down the road to reaching your education and career goals!), carefully consider your financing options, which are many.

Here are eight ways that paying for college education can be easier:

1. GI Bill.

Tap into your Post 9/11 GI Bill or Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) benefits, depending on which one applies to your situation.

  • Post 9/11: Based on your percentage of eligibility, this benefit pays a certain amount toward tuition and fees, as well as a book stipend. It is possible to have all of your tuition and fees covered, depending on your percentage of eligibility, the type of college or university you attend and the tuition rates charged by your school.
  • MGIB: This provides up to 36 months of educational assistance for a variety of training and can provide as much as $1,564 per month in education benefits.

2. State Education Benefits.

Although education benefits differ by state, you may be surprised at what is available to you. If you’re a member of the Army National Guard or Army Reserves, for instance, state-funded tuition assistance might be an option.

3. Scholarships.

Many scholarships and grants are available for service members through service organizations (e.g., American Legion, Imagine America Foundation, etc.) and universities. Find out what your school can offer you.

4. Textbook and software grants.

The cost of books can be an eye opener. For first-time students, the average cost of books and supplies was more than $1,000, according to The National Center for Education Statistics. But some schools, like Grantham, offer grants to cover this expense.

5. Transfer credit.

More transfer credit equates to a shorter degree path and less tuition required of you! So don’t underestimate the value of past learning – and don’t re-take courses unnecessarily. Most schools will evaluate military training based on your AARTS transcript. And other types of learning are also potentially “credit-worthy,” as well, including prior college coursework, corporate training, professional certifications, etc. Gather the required documentation from your school and find out before you enroll for your first (or next) class exactly what your transfer credit status is.

6. Testing out.

Yes, you can actually test out of classes. And if you take a CLEP or DSST test in place of a class, you could save money on tuition, as well as the cost of books, and be that much closer to graduation. According to collegeboard.org, CLEP tests are accepted by more than 2,900 colleges and universities, so explore this option with your school.

7. Financial aid.

Federal Student Aid (FSA) is designed to assist all students (including those serving in the military) with tuition, fees and textbook costs. The federal government requires that, if interested in receiving FSA, you complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). If it is determined that you are eligible for a Pell Grant, you could be awarded up to $5,550 each school year. It’s important to understand, too, that completion of the FAFSA does not obligate you to accept a loan, if that’s your FSA option. Eligibility for either a federal grant or loan depends on your financial needs and tuition costs.

8. Tuition reimbursement.

For federal government or corporate employees, talk to your employer. With 56% of companies now offering tuition assistance benefits that cover the cost of education, tuition reimbursement could potentially be an option for you.

Your education is important – your future depends on it. Cost doesn’t have to be an issue.  Find out what options you qualify for and take action. Then you can focus on making the most of your degree program and moving forward with your career.

Given the federal government’s suspension of tuition assistance (TA) for U.S. service members in the Army and Marine Corps, we did not include Military TA as an option to pursue. The duration of the suspension is unknown, but we’ll let you know as soon as new information becomes available.

Check out Entering the Civilian Workforce: Your Journey Starts Here (Part I of our Military-to-Civilian Transition Guide), for more information on earning your college degree for less money.

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