The U.S. Government Accountability Office projects more than five million military service members will transition back into civilian life by 2020, many of whom will do so in response to the recent drawdown of U.S. presence overseas. The surge of newly discharged soldiers and the enactment of the Post-9/11 GI Bill® have contributed to a spike in the number of veterans returning to school. In return for their service, active-duty soldiers, veterans, reservists, and guardsmen pursuing higher education are eligible for considerable financial aid. Many aid sources are subject-specific, such as nursing scholarships for veterans.
The federal government supports veterans pursuing education through initiatives such as the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, which freezes student loan debt at 6% interest during all periods of active duty. Direct loans disbursed after 2008 are interest-free during war, military operations, national emergencies, or service in hostile areas. Borrowers may defer federal loan repayments while serving on active duty or National Guard duty or during war, military operations, or national emergencies. These financial tools, along with other educational incentives, encourage returning soldiers to pursue further education. Below are general education offers for military personnel and opportunities specifically for those pursuing nursing degrees.
Financial Aid Programs for Military and Veterans
The Montgomery GI Bill®
Congress designed the original GI Bill to assist veterans with educational costs. After World War II, the bill enabled servicemembers to acquire training that applied to civilian life and created an educated workforce that boosted the nation’s economy. Today the GI Bill is administered separately for retired active-duty soldiers and active reservists.
- What’s Covered: The bill includes apprenticeships and college, technical, vocational, certification, licensing, and flight training for up to 36 academic months. In some cases, the bill may also cover entrance exams, correspondence courses, and preparation courses.
- Who’s Covered: Active members must opt in to the program and pay a $100 fee for 12 months. Eligibility is then contingent on at least two years of active service ending in honorable discharge.
- How to Apply: Applicants must file the VA Form 22-1990 online. The form requires a Social Security number, military history, prior educational history, information regarding the potential school or training facility, and personal banking details.
- What’s Covered: The bill covers apprenticeships and college, technical, vocational, certification, licensing, and flight training for at least 36 academic months. In some cases, the bill covers entrance exams, correspondence courses, and preparation courses.
- Who’s Covered: Eligible individuals include members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps, Coast Guard Reservists, and members of the Army or Air National Guard. Applicants must have at least a six-year service commitment and must be in good standing in an active unit.
- How to Apply: After confirming their potential school meets VA requirements, applicants must submit a hard-copy VA Form 22-1990 to the VA regional office that presides over the state in which they plan to study.
Post-9/11 GI Bill®
After the September 11 attacks and the military response, Congress enacted the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Similar to the Montgomery GI Bill, this law funds education for returning veterans. However, active members may transfer benefits to dependents, and eligible students may apply for the Yellow Ribbon program at participating schools.
- What’s Covered: The Post-9/11 GI Bill covers tuition and fees for public college, apprenticeships, and technical, vocational, certification, licensing, and flight training for up to 36 academic months. In some cases, the bill may also cover entrance exams, correspondence courses, and preparation courses.
- Who’s Covered: Applicants must have 90 days of active service after September 10, 2001 and must actively serve. Veterans with honorable discharge or discharge with a service-connected disability after 30 days are also eligible.
- How to Apply: Applicants can file online, by mail, or in person at a VA regional office or potential school. The application requires a Social Security number, military history, prior educational history, details regarding the potential school or training, and personal banking information.
Yellow Ribbon Program
The Yellow Ribbon program is an add-on to the Post-9/11 GI Bill and covers educational costs without compromising other GI Bill entitlements, such as Veterans Affairs nursing scholarships. Participating degree-granting institutions choose a total contribution amount, which the VA matches. Yellow Ribbon programs are ideal for students in graduate school, out-of-state public colleges, or private colleges.
- What’s Covered: Each school controls the allocated amount, although the VA limits use to mandatory expenses. Secondary costs such as living expenses, study abroad expenses, and penalty fees for late registration or parking violations are excluded.
- Who’s Covered: Honorably discharged veterans who meet the Post-9/11 GI Bill’s 100% qualification rate are eligible. Children of active-duty soldiers who have transferred benefits and veterans with service-connected disabilities also qualify.
- How to Apply: Because Post-9/11 GI Bill qualifications are required, applicants must first apply for the GI Bill. Eligible applicants then receive a VA Certificate of Eligibility, which they must submit to the Yellow Ribbon school.
National Call to Service
The National Call to Service Program is an incentive program that functions as an alternative to the Montgomery GI Bill. In exchange for a service obligation in the Selected Reserves, the Individual Ready Reserve, or Americorps, qualified veterans may choose the financial incentive that best fits their educational goals.
- What’s Covered: Recipients may choose to receive $5,000, student loan repayment up to $18,000, the equivalent of a three-year MGIB-AD rate for 12 months, or the equivalent of half the less-than-three-year MGIB-AD rate for 36 months.
- Who’s Covered: Applicants must have served for at least 15 months on active duty in a military occupational specialty, immediately followed by at least two years in the active reserves or an additional period of active duty approved by the Secretary of Defense.
- How to Apply: Veterans who enlisted under the program may apply for benefits online. Other interested soldiers must enroll in the program through a recruiter before applying.
Survivors’ and Dependents’ Education Assistance
The VA offers the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Education Assistance fund for the spouses and children of soldiers who died, acquired a disabling condition, or were compromised by hostile forces in the line of duty. Eligible dependents can receive benefits for up to 45 months, and in some cases longer.
- What’s Covered: The fund covers undergraduate and graduate programs, college boards, co-op training, certificate programs, licensure testing, apprenticeships, and exam preparation courses. Dependent spouses may take correspondence courses.
- Who’s Covered: Applicants must be the dependent of a veteran who has a service-connected disability, who died on active duty or as a result of a service-connected disability, or who was missing in action, captured, or a prisoner of war.
- How to Apply: After confirming their chosen program is VA-approved, applicants must complete VA Form 22-5540 online or on paper. Applicants should submit hard copies to the regional VA office with jurisdiction where the student plans to attend school.
ROTC Nursing Programs
Army ROTC Nursing
Many aspiring college students gain access to opportunities through the U.S. Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). In exchange for an active-duty service commitment, the Army funds part or all of the cost of each participant’s education. ROTC students take college courses alongside their peers, while also receiving adjunct ROTC training. This training delivers critical-thinking and leadership skills that are useful in military and civilian careers. After graduation, ROTC students fulfill their service commitments to the Army by working in their field of specialty.
Future nursing professionals in the Army ROTC program can receive two-, three-, or four-year Veterans Affairs nursing scholarships, which are based on merit. Aside from financial benefits, program participants can pursue hands-on nursing training through the Army’s Nurse Summer Training Program, which involves supervised professional skills development. Qualified applicants receive three-week paid internships at Army hospitals across the U.S. and in Germany.
Navy ROTC Nursing
The U.S. Navy offers an ROTC program for aspiring nurses. The Navy awards scholarship recipients full tuition, $250 per semester for books, funds to cover all lab fees, and a monthly subsistence allowance throughout the recipient’s undergraduate years. Midshipmen in the program must commit to completing a BSN program followed immediately by a service obligation. The eight-year service obligation requires four years of active duty. Midshipmen must also participate in ROTC activities during their undergraduate studies, including weekly drill instruction and two four-week summer training sessions.
Applicants for the Navy ROTC scholarship must have a high school diploma or GED, must have no criminal record, must be no older than 27 years old at the time of graduation, must have a minimum 22 ACT score or 1050 combined SAT score, must pass the Navy physical exam and physical fitness test, and must be admitted to a BSN program with a Navy ROTC program and National League of Nursing (NLN) accreditation. College students with 30 or more credits are ineligible for this scholarship, so aspiring Navy nurses should apply early. Admitted midshipmen must complete coursework in naval science, maritime affairs, and leadership and management.
Military Nursing Corps
Air Force Nursing
The Air Force Nursing Corps serves the U.S. Air Force service members, families, and communities on bases throughout the U.S. and around the world. Nurses can gain entry to the Corps by earning a BSN through an Air Force ROTC program or by enlisting as a registered nurse. To enter the Corps, licensed nurses must hold a BSN from a college with accreditation from the NLN or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Applicants must be U.S. citizens who are older than 18 but not older than 48 and must pass the Air Force physical exam.
The Corps offers comprehensive professional development and educational funding opportunities for members. RNs in the Corps may join the Nurse Education and Commissioning Program, which allows active-duty airmen to earn a graduate degree with full pay and a scholarship of up to $15,000 per year. Others may participate in the Air Force Tuition Assistance Program or the Air Force Financial Assistance Program, both available to active-duty nurses at different stages in their education. Some RNs are selected for the Air Force Institute of Technology program, which allows participants to earn graduate nursing degrees at civilian colleges free of cost.
Army Nurse Corps
More than 11,000 RNs support U.S. Army soldiers, their families, and their communities across the globe and in the United States. Individuals can become a member of the Army Nurse Corps by earning a BSN through an Army ROTC program or by enlisting as an officer after graduation. The Army Nurse Corps offers competitive financial incentives and professional development options for nurses. Unlike other branches of the military, the Army does not requires nurses to serve on active duty to receive these benefits; reservists also qualify. Eligibility requirements include citizenship or permanent residency, a nursing degree from an accredited school, an age between 21 and 42, and satisfactory physical condition.
The Army Nurse Corps’ student loan repayment programs are ideal for nurses who enlist after obtaining licensure. Active-duty nurses qualify for up to $120,000 in return for three years of service, while reservists can receive up to $50,000. Several Army programs offer scholarships for graduate nursing students; the Army Health Professions Scholarship Program pays full tuition and a living stipend. Reservists who plan to specialize in critical care or nurse anesthesia can apply for the Specialized Training Assistance Program.
Navy Nurse Corps
Members of the Navy Nurse Corps support service members and their families onboard ships, in military treatment facilities, on deployments, and in humanitarian aid efforts. Navy nurses can pursue full-time active duty or part-time duty as reservists. Service obligations last at least three years and vary based on the individual’s specialty and educational background.
Applicants who did not participate in the Navy ROTC program must have a BSN from a CCNE-accredited school and must have RN licensure in a U.S. state or territory, the District of Columbia, or Puerto Rico. Other requirements include citizenship, physical conditioning, an age of 18 to 41, and a three-year commitment to active-duty service.
The Navy Nurse Corps offers significant financial incentives to nurses planning to attend graduate school. For some specialties, the Navy repays up to $50,000 of student loans to reservists in return for an additional service commitment. To incentivize civilian nurses to enlist, the Navy Health Professions Loan Repayment Program offers up to $40,000 per year. Corps members on active duty may also qualify for the loan repayment program.
Are There Nursing Scholarships for Veterans?
Who Can Apply: Eligible applicants include surviving spouses and children of active-duty service members who died on or after September 11, 2001.
Amount: Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, which cover extensive educational costs and full public-school tuition at participating Yellow Ribbon programs
Who Can Apply: Applicants must be active-duty, enlisted Army soldiers pursuing a bachelor’s degree in nursing.
Amount: up to $10,000 per academic year
Who Can Apply: Registered nurses pursuing graduate degrees can apply.
Amount: Tuition and living expense stipend in exchange for active-duty service commitment
Who Can Apply: Applicants must be current undergraduate nursing students willing to commit to an active-duty service obligation after graduation.
Amount: up to $34,000, including a $1,000 monthly stipend for up to 24 months
Who Can Apply: Applicants for these nursing scholarships for veterans must be aspiring nurses between the ages of 17 and 23, must be U.S. citizens, must have a minimum 22 ACT score or 1000 combined SAT score, and must meet Marines physical fitness requirements.
Amount: Full tuition at one of 36 participating colleges
Who Can Apply: Applicants must be children of military service members who died on or after September 11, 2001, or children of post-9/11 veterans with a disability rating of 50% or greater.
Amount: Varies based on financial need
Who Can Apply: Veterans, active-duty soldiers, or reserve members can apply for these nursing scholarships for veterans and soldiers.
Amount: $1,000 for four years
Who Can Apply: Applicants must be veterans, active-duty soldiers, or reserve members.
Amount: $3,000 for four years
Who Can Apply: Veterans, active-duty soldiers, or members of the reserves can apply.
Who Can Apply: These nursing scholarships for veterans supports members of the Paralyzed Veterans of America and their dependents.
Who Can Apply: Applicants must be active-duty, honorably discharged, or retired members of the armed forces or reserves who demonstrate financial need.
Amount: Up to $5,000
Who Can Apply: Active-duty, honorably discharged, retired service members, and their spouses can apply.
Who Can Apply: Applicants must be honorably discharged veterans or their spouses, must have at least a 2.5 GPA, and must plan to pursue a two-year or four-year degree at an accredited college.
Who Can Apply: This grant supports active-duty soldiers, reservists, or veterans who are from, permanently reside in, or are stationed in North Carolina. Applicants must have experienced financial hardship in connection with their service.
Who Can Apply: Applicants must be an active-duty or veteran service member, or the spouse of a service member, and must be pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree.
Amount: Tuition, books, fees, and living expenses
Resources for Active Military and Veterans
- U.S. Department of Labor Veterans’ Employment and Training Services: This website offers information for soldiers and veterans, including a list of employers who hire veterans, apprenticeship and career information, and access to the Transition Assistance Program curriculum.
- Veterans Coming Home: This website helps prepare active-duty service members for the transition to post-service civilian life. This resource emphasizes career, educational, and family concerns and provides informative articles.
- Military Programs and Assistance: This federally managed resource provides information about general assistance, educational, life insurance, and consumer benefits military programs. Using this resource, active-duty soldiers and their family members can quickly navigate to useful information.
- Military OneSource: This resource provides information about all aspects of daily military life. Soldiers and their family members benefit from articles, links, and online tools to assist with deployment, moving, health and wellness, and confidential support.
- Find a Commissary: Enter an address, ZIP code, state, or country to find the nearest military commissary on any base in the world.
- My HealtheVet: This portal to the Veterans Health Administration system allows users to manage health records, communicate with healthcare professionals, make appointments, and request prescription refills.
* GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government website at https://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/.