Using the Post-9/11 GI Bill to Pay for College


If you are part of a military family, you've surely heard that the Post-9/11 GI Bill can help pay for college. A veteran who has served more than 90 days of active duty since Sept. 10, 2001, can use the GI Bill to pay for four years of tuition, as well as money toward room and board and books, at specific colleges. Parents who are veterans have the ability to pass along this benefit to their spouse or children to pay for college, or split it between dependents.

The cost of college using the GI Bill can be used at public universities and some private colleges and universities as well. If you choose to attend a private or international school, tuition and fees are capped at the national maximum rate (which means you would have to come up with the remainder of the cost on your own).

Get to Know the Yellow Ribbon Program

Many higher education institutions are committed to helping the families of veterans pursue their educations — even if they cost more than the benefits that the GI Bill provides families. The Yellow Ribbon Program allows students covered under the Post-9/11 GI Bill to receive funding to cover the amount of tuition and fees that exceed the highest public state undergraduate tuition and fees. This allows students more options — it provides you with the opportunity to attend a private university or a graduate school, or attend a state school where you are not a resident.

According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), colleges and universities that participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program “agree to make additional funds available for your education program without an additional charge to your GI Bill entitlement. These institutions voluntarily enter into a Yellow Ribbon Agreement with VA and choose the amount of tuition and fees that will be contributed. VA matches that amount and issues payments directly to the institution."

An online interactive map shows which higher education institutions are part of the Yellow Ribbon Program.

Compare Benefits With This Tool

If you are planning to pursue your college education using the Post-9/11 GI Bill and you're wondering how much each of your target schools would accept from the program (and therefore what your out-of-pocket costs might be), use the government's GI Bill Comparison Tool and enter the name of the school you hope to attend. There, you'll find a breakdown of how much the government will pay toward your education.

For example, suppose you live in North Carolina and you're applying to UNC Chapel Hill and New York University. Here's what the comparison tool estimates will be covered at each school:

- UNC Chapel Hill: You may be eligible for 100 percent of in-state tuition cost, $1,554 in monthly housing costs and $1,000 per year in books.

- NYU: You may be eligible for up to $23,672 in annual tuition, $3,738 monthly in housing and $1,000 in books each year.

As you can see, the in-state school would essentially be covered in full, whereas you'd still pay a significant portion of the cost at NYU in the absence of other aid.

You can also find out exactly how the benefits work by accessing the GI Bill Comparison chart.

What if you want to go to college abroad? Students may use the GI Bill for tuition at international higher education institutions if they offer the equivalent education of a college degree in the United States, and if the institution is approved by the VA. More information about using benefits for an international college can be found online.

For instance, according to the Comparison Tool, a veteran could be eligible for $23,672 in annual tuition, $1,650 in monthly housing and $1,000 a year on books at either McGill University in Canada or at Scotland's University of Edinburgh, among many other international colleges.

So if you are part of a military family, ask your parent(s) if they have transferred benefits of the GI Bill to you. If your family has not yet transferred the benefits to you to pay for college, share this link with them to educate them about the process. Paying for college may just have gotten a lot easier!