States Offering Free College Tuition for Military & Veteran Dependents
Many states offer the equivalent of free college tuition or a substantial amount of financial aid as a benefit for military dependents and veteran dependents. As a service member, you earn education benefits you can use for yourself, but there are also benefits for spouses and college-age dependent children.
Here is a list of states providing tuition benefits to veterans’ dependents in military-friendly colleges or at other higher education institutions
States with Education Benefits for Military & Veteran Dependents
Here’s a quick list if you’re looking for information about states that offer education benefits to dependents of veterans. Click on the state name to jump directly to your state for more info.
States with Education Benefits for Disabled Veteran Dependents
The following states offer education benefits for the dependents of disabled veterans:
Some states offer education benefits for disabled veterans and dependents. This may not always translate to free college, but in many cases, a substantial portion of approved education costs may be offset.
The State of Arizona offers qualifying dependents a tuition waiver.
Dependent children of an Arizona National Guard member or US Armed Forces member, who were:
- members of the state of Arizona or who were stationed in Arizona AND
- killed in the line of duty or who died from injuries suffered in the line of duty (while traveling to or from duty may qualify)
Age restrictions may apply.
In the State of California, the College Fee Waiver for Veteran Dependents benefit program waives tuition and fees for attendance at any State of California Community College, California State University, and the University of California. The waiver does not cover housing or books. There are multiple “plans” under which you may qualify.
To be approved for the College Fee Waiver for Veteran Dependents under Plan A, you must be one of the following:
- An unmarried dependent (14 years or older and under 27) of a totally disabled veteran or a veteran “whose death was officially rated as service-connected.”
- The spouse of a wartime veteran who is totally service-connected disabled.
- The unmarried surviving spouse of a wartime veteran whose death is rated as service-connected.
- Any dependent of veterans declared missing in action, captured in the line of duty by hostile forces, or forcibly detained or interned in the line of duty.
Under Plan A, the veteran must have served at least one day of active duty during a period of war or, “during any time in which the Veteran was awarded a campaign or expeditionary medal”. You may not draw both Plan A and VA Chapter 35 benefits at the same time.
To be approved for the College Fee Waiver for Veteran Dependents under Plan B:
You must be the child of a veteran who had a service-connected disability at the time of death or who died of service-connected causes, regardless of whether military service was in wartime or not. Annual income limits apply, but if you qualify for VA Chapter 35 benefits you may still apply for this program.
To be approved for the College Fee Waiver for Veteran Dependents under Plan C:
This option is offered to the dependents of California National Guard members who were killed on duty, who died as a result of a service-connected disability, or who were permanently disabled on duty. Surviving spouses may also qualify.
To be approved for the College Fee Waiver for Veteran Dependents under Plan D:
Plan D is offered to Medal of Honor recipients and children of Medal of Honor recipients under the age of 27. Plan D offers education benefits for undergraduate studies only, income and age restrictions may apply. You can receive Plan D benefits at the same time you use VA Chapter 35 benefits.
The State of Kentucky offers a tuition waiver for qualifying veterans’ spouses and dependent children. This waiver may be used towards 2-year, 4-year or vocational schools funded by the Kentucky Department of Education.
To qualify, one of the following must be true of the veteran:
- They died on active duty
- They died as a result of service-connected disability (determined by VA)
- 100% service-connected disabled
- Totally disabled (not service-connected) with wartime service
- Is deceased, was a KY resident at the time of death, with wartime service
- Social Security Administration award is not acceptable
The applicant does not be a state resident. For more info, please see the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs.
Louisiana provides a state benefit for exemption of tuition and certain fees for:
- Surviving spouses of deceased war veterans
- Spouses of disabled war veterans
- Children of veterans with at least a 90% service-disabled rating
- Children of war veterans who have a 100% disability rating due to individual unemployability
This exemption is good for up to four years of school, and the program must be completed in five years. There is no age limit for a surviving spouse. Children are eligible until the age of 25 and must attend on a full-time basis.
To apply please get in touch with your local Parish Veterans Service Office. For more info, please visit the website.
The North Carolina Scholarship for Children of Wartime Veterans offers scholarships good for eight academic semesters to qualifying children of veterans who are:
- Combat veterans
- Prisoners of War
- Missing in Action
The applicant must be under the age of 25 at the time of application and the veteran’s qualifying criteria “must have occurred during a period of war” according to the official site.
Children of veterans who were killed in action, or who died on active duty may qualify for military tuition benefits at a state-supported school. The child must be under the age of 25, be a resident of South Dakota, and the parent must be a resident of South Dakota for at least six months immediately preceding entry into active service.
The Hazelwood Act in Texas helps spouses and dependent children of eligible service members, active duty, reserves, and the Texas National Guard who died in the line of duty or the result of an injury or illness related to military service. Spouses and dependents of those who are missing in action, or who became totally disabled for purposes of employability as a result of a service-related injury or illness may also qualify.
Benefits under the Hazelwood Act include exemption from tuition and most fees, up to 150 semester credit hours at state-supported colleges. The benefit cannot be used for service fees, supplies, or living expenses.
Search VA-approved Schools in Texas
The State of Washington offers a waiver of undergraduate tuition and fees at state-supported colleges, up to 200 quarter credits or equivalent semester credits for qualifying dependents of 100% disabled veterans and those who died in service.
List of States Veterans and Dependents Education Benefits
In Alaska, National Guard members may qualify for up to 100% tuition assistance at any University of Alaska system school.
In Connecticut, tuition at state-supported schools may be waived for qualifying veterans and certain dependents. To qualify, veterans must attend a state regional community or technical college or a state university. Wartime service and state residency is required.
Dependents may also qualify for a tuition waiver if the veteran is declared missing in action while serving in the armed forces after January 1, 1960.
Florida offers qualifying applicants the Congressman C.W. Bill Young Tuition Waiver Program. This program waives out-of-state tuition fees for all honorably discharged veterans who reside in the state and are enrolled in Florida public post-secondary institutions.
This is also available to qualifying spouses and dependent children living in Florida and who are using GI Bill benefits for enrollment in Florida Public post-secondary institutions.
The Illinois Veterans’ Grant (IVG) Program pays tuition and mandatory fees at all Illinois state-sponsored colleges, universities, and community colleges for eligible Illinois veterans. This grant can be used in conjunction with VA benefits.
In order to qualify, veterans must be:
- Honorably discharged
- Live in Illinois
- Have at least one full year of active duty
- Other residency criteria may apply
Qualifying Massachusetts veterans are offered tuition waivers for all state colleges and universities. Veterans must be in an undergraduate degree program or certificate program, and must not be in default on federal student loans. Veterans are eligible on a space-available basis for a waiver of full or partial tuition based on proper documentation of their eligibility of the veteran.
Members of the National Guard may also qualify for a waiver of both fees and tuition at all state colleges and universities.
Montana offers a state veteran tuition waiver. To qualify, a veteran must have an honorable discharge. Applicants must be a resident of Montana. This benefit is authorized for those who have VA education benefits which are exhausted or expired. To qualify, applicants must meet one of the following:
- Military service between December 7, 1941, to December 31, 1946; June 22, 1950, to January 31, 1955; or January 1, 1964, to May 7, 1975.
- Qualified students working on an initial undergraduate degree who received an Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal for service after May 7, 1975.
- Qualified students working on an initial undergraduate degree who received the Southwest Asia Service Medal for service in the Persian Gulf between August 2, 1990, and April 11, 1991.
- Those awarded the Kosovo Campaign Medal
- Served in a combat theatre in Afghanistan or Iraq after September 11, 2001, and received either the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, or the Iraq Campaign Medal.
Veterans who qualify for this waiver may receive it for a total of 12 semesters and must maintain satisfactory academic progress.
The Wartime Veteran Scholarship Fund is for qualifying veterans who served in combat since 1990, and who have exhausted all available federal GI Education Benefit options. This scholarship is for tuition costs and books at a public New Mexico Institute of Higher Education.
New Mexico residency is required for a minimum of 10 years and applicants must have earned one of the following medals in conflicts since August 1, 1990.
- Southwest Asia Service Medal
- Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
- Iraq Campaign Medal
- Afghanistan Campaign Medal
- Any other issued medal
New Mexico also has a Vietnam Veterans Scholarship. This is for veterans who have been residents of New Mexico for a minimum of 10 years, have served in Vietnam, and were issued the Vietnam Campaign or Service Medal are eligible.
This scholarship pays full tuition and books at any state-funded post-secondary school.
New York offers Veterans Tuition Awards, which are managed by the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC).
Veterans must be New York state residents, be discharged under honorable conditions, and must have served in one of the following eras:
- Vietnam between February 28, 1961, and May 7, 1975
- Persian Gulf on or after August 2, 1990
- Afghanistan on or after September 11, 2001
- Hostilities after February 28, 1961, with an Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Navy Expeditionary Medal or a Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal.
Awards are for full-time and part-time students for eligible veterans in an undergraduate or graduate degree-granting institution or in an approved vocational training program in New York state.
North Carolina offers scholarships for children of veterans. They are eligible for a four-year scholarship at a North Carolina-approved school. The veteran parent must either be deceased, disabled, a POW or MIA, or a combat veteran.
The child must be under 25, and be a current resident. Other residency criteria may apply. The parent veteran must be a resident of North Carolina at the time of entry into the qualifying period of service, or the child must have been born in North Carolina and have lived exclusively in North Carolina.
South Carolina has a tuition waiver program for children of qualifying wartime veterans.
Children must be 26 years old or younger and admitted to any state-supported college, university, or post-high school technical education institution free of tuition as long as their work and conduct are satisfactory.
The veteran must be a resident of South Carolina at the time of entry into service, be a resident during service and still be residing in the state, or have been a resident of the state for at least a year and still residing in the state.
South Dakota provides for certain veterans to take undergraduate courses at a state-supported university.
Veterans must have been discharged under Honorable conditions, be current residents of South Dakota and qualify for in-state tuition, and qualify as a veteran.
Qualifying as a veteran would mean serving on active duty any time between August 2, 1990, a date to be determined, receiving an Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal or other United States campaign or service medal for participating in combat operations against hostile forces outside the boundaries of the US or having a service-connected disability rated 10% or more that is disabling.
Eligible veterans can receive one month of free tuition for each month of qualifying service with a minimum of one, up to a maximum of four academic years.
Children of veterans who were KIA or died of other causes while on active duty are eligible for free tuition at a state-supported school. The child needs to be under the age of 25, be a resident of South Dakota, and the parent must have been a resident of South Dakota for at least six months immediately preceding entry into active service.
Tennessee offers the Helping Heroes Grant; an award is for $1,000 per semester for students enrolled in 12 semester hours or more. Students receive $500 per semester for 6-11 semester hours. These grants are awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis.
To be eligible, a veteran must be honorably discharged. Applicants may be former or current members of a reserve or Tennessee National Guard unit called into active military service.
They also must have been a Tennessee resident for one year preceding the date of application for the grant, be awarded Iraq Campaign Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, or Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, on or after Sept. 11, 2001, be enrolled at an eligible 2 or 4 years post secondary institution, haven’t earned a baccalaureate degree yet, not in default of a federal or Tennessee educational loan, and other qualifications.
The grant may be awarded for a maximum of eight full semesters.
The Texas Hazlewood Act provides a military education benefit of up to 150 credit hours of tuition and most required fees at a state-supported college or university at no cost to the veteran.
The veteran must be a Texas resident when entering military service, be classified as a resident by the institution for the term or semester they are applying for, have served at least 181 days on active duty service, have an honorable or general under honorable conditions discharge, have no federal veterans’ education benefits.
Applicants with federal benefits may also qualify depending on circumstances.
Eligible veterans may be permitted to assign or transfer unused hours of exemption eligibility to a child. Spouses and dependent children of eligible service members, active duty, reserves, and the Texas National Guard who died in the line of duty or the result of an injury or illness related to military service also qualify.
Spouses and dependents of those who are missing in action, or who became totally disabled for purposes of employability as a result of a service-related injury or illness should also apply.
Search VA-approved Schools in Texas
Utah offers the Veterans Tuition Gap Program, which helps qualifying military veterans with tuition assistance for the last school year at state institutions of higher education. This is for tuition only and does not include housing, books, or other expenses.
To qualify, veterans must be Utah residents, admitted to a state school, have no previous degrees, and are eligible for Chapters 1606, 30, 31, 32, or Chapter 33 Post 9/11 GI Bill.
Search VA-approved Schools in Utah
The State of Washington allows state community colleges, colleges, and universities, to waive some or all tuition and fees for eligible wartime veterans who are residents of the state. Those who have served overseas may also qualify depending on circumstances.
These schools may also waive undergraduate tuition and fees, up to 200 quarter credits or equivalent semester credits for dependents of 100% disabled veterans who are eligible, at state community colleges, colleges, and universities.
The Wisconsin GI Bill is a state-level program offering full tuition and approved fees for eligible veterans and their dependents for up to eight semesters or 128 credits, whichever is greater, at any University of Wisconsin System or Wisconsin Technical College System school. This benefit is different from the federal-level GI Bill.
To be eligible the veteran must be a Wisconsin resident at the time of entry into active military service and be a resident for at least five consecutive years preceding the start of any semester or session.
Eligible veterans’ spouses or children may use this benefit if the veteran has been awarded a VA service-connected disability rating of at least 30% or has died in the line of duty or as a result of a service-connected ability.
To qualify a veteran must meet requirements that include but may not be limited to the following:
- Served at least 90 days or more during wartime.
- Served on active duty for at least two continuous years or full initial service obligation during peacetime.
- Honorably discharged because of a service-connected disability or due to a reduction in force.
- Served in a designated crisis zone.
- Received the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, a Vietnam Service Medal, a Navy Expeditionary Medal, a Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal, or an expeditionary or service medal equivalent.
Wyoming provides a veteran tuition benefit in the form of free tuition and fees for overseas combat veterans, surviving spouses, and their dependents. This is offered for a maximum of 8 semesters.
To qualify, veterans must have been a resident of Wyoming for at least one year prior to entering into active duty, have an Honorable discharge and were awarded an “authorized medal” such as the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal.
Surviving spouses or children of eligible service members qualify if the service member died on active duty, and the applicant was under 22 years of age when the servicemember parent died.
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- In-State and Out-of-State Tuition Under the GI Bill
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About the author
Julie Provost is a freelance writer, blogger, and owner of Soldier's Wife, Crazy Life, a support blog for military spouses. She lives in Tennessee with her National Guard husband and three boys.