Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Financing The Flying Dream

The best sources to fund your flight training

Federal Grants And Loan
Unlike a loan, a Federal Pell Grant doesn't have to be repaid. A Pell grant is a monetary award given only to undergraduate students who haven't yet earned a bachelor's or a professional degree. The great news is that many of the accredited flight-training academies like Aerosim or FlightSafety are eligible institutions for students to receive Pell grants. The amount you receive depends on several factors, including how much you can contribute financially to your training, the school's tuition, your own financial need and more. As of this year, the maximum yearly amount you can qualify for is $5,550. You can apply for Pell grants multiple years, and the process begins by filling out a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), which is available at

There are other federal grants, including the Iran and Afghanistan Service Grant, which offers $5,550 to students who had a parent or guardian who died during military service in Iraq or Afghanistan after September 11, 2001. There's also the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) that awards up to $4,000 based on financial need. These grants are available through both college aviation programs and academies like ATP, Spartan School of Aeronautics, Kansas State University and others.

Loans have to be paid back, of course, but according to our academies and college programs, they're an easy—if not painless—way to fund your training. Federal loan programs usually allow a grace period of six months after training is complete before they have to be repaid, allowing students to secure a job and settle into it before having to worry about repaying a large loan.

The most popular federal loan program is the Stafford Loan. Stafford Loans are low-interest loans for eligible students to help cover the cost of higher education at a four-year college or university, community college, trade, career or technical school. This requirement allows most accredited flight training academies to be eligible, just as university aviation degree programs are. As of 2010, students borrow directly from the U.S. Department of Education, and not from private lenders participating in the program.

While the basic Stafford Loan is for students with demonstrated financial need, the Stafford program also offers what are known as "direct unsubsidized loans" that don't require financial hardship. The aggregate loan limit for undergraduate students who aren't dependents of their parents is $57,500. Applying for a Stafford loan entails the same FAFSA form as for the other grants.

GI Bill Benefits
If you're willing to do some military service in exchange for government funding of your flight training, the post-9/11 GI Bill is the way to go. The "classic" GI Bill that many veteran pilots used to fund their flight training in decades past has changed substantially but still offers some amazing benefits for those who have served—or had parents who served— recently in any branch of the U.S. Military. It's important to note that the latest iteration of the GI Bill went into effect October 1, 2011, and contains some critical changes of benefit to flight students. This version is called the "Post-9/11 GI Bill."

Like all federal programs, the nuances of the GI Bill are complex, but flight students really just need to know the basics, and these are fairly clear: If you served in the military for at least 36 months after September 11, 2001, you're eligible for 100% of the benefits of the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The three major benefits of the Bill include up to 100% paid tuition no matter what education level you're seeking, a monthly housing stipend and a stipend of up to $1,000 a year for books and supplies, as well as a flight-training-only reimbursement of $10,000 per year. If you served less than 36 months, you're eligible for a percentage of these benefits, based on your time served.

Tuition and fee payments are uncapped for public colleges and universities (at the in-state resident rates). Students attending private colleges and universities have a $17,500 annual tuition-and-fee payment cap (nationwide). The most significant change for flight students is that the newest GI Bill now includes flight-training programs.


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