Ohio National Guard requires students to receive joint financial aid

Kathryn Monsewicz

Student National Guardsmen must now apply for federal aid before receiving the state-funded Ohio National Guard scholarship. This will save the state of Ohio money by putting more of the financial responsibility on the federal government.

Originally, 100 percent of the tuition costs were covered by the state of Ohio and soldiers were also eligible to receive aid from the federal government. Now, members must use a combination of state and federal funds that will pay 100 percent tuition costs.

The National Guardsmen will also not be allowed to use two federal benefits at once. These federal benefits include the Federal Tuition Assistance grant (FTA) and Post 9/11 GI Bill.

FTA is defined as a tuition assistance program provided for a part-time soldier in the Ohio National Guard to support their professional and personal self-development goals.

The director of the Center for Adult and Veteran Services, Joshua Rider, said the FTA pays $250 per semester credit hour, covering up to 16 credit hours at a maximum of $4,000 annually of the tuition. This does not include general fees charged by the university.

Kent State’s tuition balance per semester is over $5,000, meaning the FTA will not cover a full semester, Ohio Army National Guard recruiting officer Michael Miller said.

If a student is eligible and not receiving federal aid from the GI Bill, the remainder of the costs of tuition and general fees would be covered by the ONG scholarship.

National Guardswoman and senior journalism major, Tia Myers-Rocker, pointed out the joint coverage of the FTA and ONG scholarship.

“At the end of the day, the Ohio National Guard scholarship does pay tuition and fees, and the FTA does not guarantee 100 percent tuition and they absolutely do not pay your fees,” Myers-Rocker said.

Myers-Rocker receives the GI Bill for her service, and therefore is unable to apply for FTA.

The 1606 Montgomery GI Bill, for which ONG members are eligible if serving a 6-year contract, pays soldiers who are taking a full-time course load – 12 or more credit hours – $369 monthly.

This is paid in cash to the student to use on costs such as parking passes, textbooks or any other costs in the way of their education. Service members receive this for 36 months through the Department of Veterans Affairs, Miller said.

“The students will have to now think of when they want to use (GI Bill) benefits because they can’t use them at the same time (as the FTA),” Miller said.

The CAVS office can help students serving apply for FTA or for their GI Bill benefits.

“We are here to answer questions while they are going through the process,” Rider said. “They can call or email our office and we can walk through it with them. ‘Are you getting GI Bill benefits? Yes. You don’t need to fill out tuition assistance, but we need you to do this.’”

In receiving GI Bill benefits, Rider stressed the importance of applying on time.

“You must apply for them. You must be using them. You have to let our office know you are using them. Otherwise, the Guard is going to request that you apply for Federal TA,” Rider said. “It is imperative to get in here and get your benefits set up on time and early every semester.”

First-time applicants apply through vets.gov to be approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs for the benefit. Every following semester, the student will need to fill out an Intent of Enrollment form through the CAVS office, Rider said.

The change in the application process is just that. A change in the application process and does not help or hurt the student, Rider said.

“Of the 2,500 guard members in the state that are using the Ohio National Guard scholarship, about 200 will be affected and will have to apply for Tuition Assistance and the Guard scholarship,” Rider said. “The other 2,300 will continue their normal paths.”

The deadline to apply for FTA for the Spring 2018 semester, when the changes take effect, is Nov. 1.

“It’s 100 percent of your tuition,” Rider said. “There’s a pretty big incentive to do that.”

These changes are being put into effect in an attempt to balance budget constraints, Miller said.

“As the Ohio National Guard has grown, more members continue to utilize the (scholarship) program to pay for their schooling,” Miller said. “A benefit that is probably underused is the federal funds because we paid 100 percent in the past.”

A budget set every year takes into account members of the Ohio National Guard who are in school. To keep this budget feasible, money will now be shared between state and federal funds in order to keep up with the growing number of Ohio National Guard service members, providing the same amount of benefits, Miller said.

For the foreseeable future, Ohio National Guard members will be receiving both federal and state-funded aid that will be applied either to the university directly or, in the case of the GI Bill only, put into student hands.

Kathryn Monsewicz is the military and veterans reporter. Contact her at [email protected]