by Maj. S.J. Brown
934th Airlft Wing Public Affairs
3/14/2013 - WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Maj. Kevin Wilkins died of an illness that resulted from his military service in Operation Iraqi Freedom.This left his wife, Jill, wondering how she was going to handle being a single parent and how she was going to pay for her son and daughter's college education.
"It is extremely hard to be given the job to raise two children on your own plus the financial burden of college costs," she said. "This grant is a huge financial help to me and my son and daughter."
The Iraq Afghanistan Service Grant is provided by the U.S. Department of Education to children of U.S. service members who died as a result of injuries incurred in Iraq or Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001. Wilkins was an Air Force reservist assigned to the 920th Aeromedical Staging Squadron, Patrick Air Force Base, Fla.
"I first read about the IASG on the internet going into the 2011-2012 school year while looking into the requirements for my children to receive the Pell Grant," said Jill Wilkins whose son Keaton is a senior at the University of South Florida, and daughter McKenna is a sophomore at the College of Central Florida.
"I contacted both colleges' financial aid offices in April 2012," Wilkins said. "But neither school had ever heard of such a grant."
Wilkins said if it hadn't been for the hard work of officials at the Department of Education and in Washington D.C., she wouldn't have gotten the grant.
"We have had a few hundred recipients of the Pell/Iraq Afghanistan Service Grant since it began in 2009," said Marya Dennis, an official with the U.S. Department of Education. "But as the young children eligible for the Iraq Afghanistan Service Grant become college-aged, we expect our application numbers to increase significantly each year."
Eligible students may receive the full Pell Grant of $5,645 for the 2013-2014 academic year, Dennis said. If applicants are not eligible for Pell Grants, they may receive an equivalent amount from the Iraq Afghanistan Service Grant. Applicants may receive one or the other, but not both.
The Pell Grant is based on a family's financial need. Both it and the Iraq Afghanistan Service Grant are not loans and do not have to be repaid.
"The Department of Education has worked diligently to provide information to colleges and universities on the Iraq Afghanistan Service Grant," Dennis said.