U.S. Navy veteran Bryan Fazio was getting ready to be deployed to the Middle East on the USS McClusky when doctors discovered a 15cm tumor in his chest. He wasn’t healthy enough for deployment, but he didn’t want to give up his dream of serving his country. For two years and multiple medical operations for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, he helped coordinate training for artillery exercises, search and rescue missions, and security checks.
When he finally had to leave the military after two years when a bone marrow transplant failed, he needed a distraction. He went back to Brandman University to complete two master’s degrees and is now moving onward to law school. His will to live that has pushed him years past doctors’ estimates of his remaining lifespan has driven him towards pursuing a career helping disabled veterans with their legal troubles.
Becuase of Fazio’s determination, Bramdman University started a scholarship in Fazio’s honor. The Bryan A. Fazio Scholarship was given to 15 veterans in 2014 in amounts ranging from $250 to $1,000. Since veterans generally qualify for the GI Bill or other forms of financial aid, the scholarship is designed to help veterans with extra expenses, such as textbooks. However, Brandman University Chancellor Gray Brahm says the scholarship also serves as a mission statement that says if Fazio can manage to complete his classes while going through chemotherapy, the rest of us can succeed too. Brandman is currently fundraising to increase the number of scholarships awarded in 2015.
No matter where veterans live, there is help beyond the GI Bill for families. Here are just a few ways for veterans and their families to secure college funding:
Every veteran, spouse or child of a veteran should check with their state’s veterans services department to see what benefits they might be eligible to receive. Service requirements and cash and tuition waiver amounts vary from state to state. For instance, in the state of Texas, the service requirement for veterans to receive a tuition waiver is 181 days of active-duty service. They can pass on any unused part of the 150 credit hours given to them to their children. In California, the waiver for children is based on whether the military parent was disabled or received a Medal of Honor.
In a U.S. News & World Report article, Navy service member Xavier Gamez discusses looking for college scholarships for his kids since their births. “I found out about the [USAA Distinguished Valor] matching grant program when searching the Nevada Treasury Department website, looking for scholarships for my kids,” he says. He receives a $300 annual matching grant for five years for both of his children. He qualified by meeting active-duty military service requirements, being a Nevada resident, and choosing USAA’s 529 plan, a tax-advantaged college savings account. The extra college cash is also available to Nevada families of Purple Heart recipients.
The matching grant Gamez’s family received was for Nevada residents only, but other states offer matching grant programs for families’ college savings investment accounts. Check with your state’s treasury department to find out your options.
Always ask universities and colleges about scholarships for both veterans and families. Also, request information about scholarships for other attributes and talents, such as academic achievement or community service. For military-specific scholarships, also check online. Military.com has a scholarship finder on its site to search for scholarships by military affiliation and status.
Look at the Total Financial Aid Picture
Most universities and colleges have veterans’ service officers on campus in the financial aid or admissions office. They can help veterans and families figure out the best resources for paying for college. Luckily, there are plenty of options.
By Reyna Gobel
Contributor to Forbes