How Do Veterans Afford College?

One of the coolest things about this job is that I get to help my fellow Veterans with issues that I have already been through. College is only getting more expensive with the shift from higher education institutions to billion-dollar businesses. As of right now, the average cost for an in-state student in the US is about $10,000 and $26,000 out of state per year.

This comes out to an astounding $104,000 for a 4-year degree that will undoubtedly keep you in debt for your whole life. According to the Federal Reserve, the average student debt ranges from $200-300 per month and lasts a lifetime. With this knowledge, how the hell are we supposed to afford school and not be in debt for the rest of our lives? This blog will give you all the information about applying, maintaining, and getting the most out of your Veteran benefits.

Post 9/11 G.I. Bill

I got out of the military in 2011 after serving my 4-year enlistment and decided to go to school immediately once I got out. I had to make a choice whether I was going to get the Post 9/11 or the Montgomery GI Bill and really had no idea what to choose. Luckily I chose right and picked the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill and was able to have my tuition and room and board paid for.

The Post 9/11 G.I. Bill is available to anyone who has served on active duty after 9/11/2001 for at least 3 years and has been granted an honorable discharge.  This is by far the best and most comprehensive benefit for Veterans to take advantage of.  However, there are a lot of misconceptions about the benefit that people are never told until they experience it. This section will give you everything you need to know to make the best decision for you and your family.

How Much Does the Post 9/11 GI Bill Cover?
100% 36 or more total months
100% 30 or more consecutive days on active duty with a disability-related discharge
90% 30 total months
80% 24 total months
70% 18 total Months
60% 12 total months
50% 6 total months
40% 90 or more days

How Do I Apply for Post 9/11 GI Bill Benefits?

As we learn to crawl before we learn to walk, I want to first teach you how to apply to the benefits you’ve earned with your hard work for your nation. Before you apply you’re going to need personal information (table below) so the VA and the educational institution can verify your credentials. There are multiple ways you can apply, whether it be by mail, in person, with the help of an advocate, or online. There is no reason that I could think of that would be a good reason to not apply online. It will take you about 10 minutes to apply to your benefits and you will receive a confirmation email that it was received, immediately (Save this email). It will take anywhere from a week to 90 days for the VA to confirm your benefits and start the process with your school.

What Information Do I Need to Apply for Education Benefits?
Social Security Number
Direct Deposit from registered bank
Education and military history
Basic information about the school or training facility

What Happens After I Apply?

Once you apply for your benefits, you’ll receive the ruling from the VA normally within 30 days of submitting your application. One the VA has made its decision, you’ll receive a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) in the mail if you’ve been granted your benefits. Once you get this letter, safeguard it with your life and bring it to the certifying official at your prospective school (every public university has one).

Pro Tip: Make sure you fill out everything correctly because once you submit the application, you can’t go back for any reason. If you have all of your documentation submitted, this process will be shorter than if you don’t have everything submitted.

What are the Major Benefits from the Post 9/11 GI Bill?

There are a lot of benefits from this Bill, but the major ones are tuition (up to 100%), $1,000 per year for books, and a monthly stipend for housing (BAH). The most deceiving and misunderstood aspect of the 9/11 Bill is the idea that no matter what, 100% of your tuition is covered. This is not accurate at all because each state and University has different pricing and costs associated with the school. We will get into this later, I just want you to start thinking about how much your prospective school will cost. On way to find out how much your school will cover, is to put your information in the VA comparison tool. This will allow you to see if the school you want to go to is a realistic option or it’s too expensive for your financial situation.

  1. Tuition up to 100%
  2. BAH is dependent on your zip code. Rated at E-5 with dependents up to 36 months
  3. $1,000 a year for books

Does the Post 9/11 GI Bill Cover Part-Time School?

Yes, you can use your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits even if you’re only going to school part-time, but they will only cover the number of credits taken. For example, if you apply and are granted GI Bill Benefits, you can take as low as 1 class per semester and your class will be paid off. This may sound like a good idea, but you’d be wasting thousands of dollars using your GI Bill in this way. The Post 9/11 covers up to full-time students for 36 months, meaning that if you only take one class per semester, that still counts towards your 36 months. So, to get the most out of your GI Bill, its best to take at least 12 credits.

Can I Transfer My Educational benefits to my family?

Yes, but there are a lot of stipulations that must be met first if you want your child or wife/husband to receive your education benefits. The military wants at least 10 years of service for you to transfer because they feel like if you’re not going to use your entitlement, they want more commitment out of you. If you’re interested in applying for a Transfer of Entitlement (TOE), click here and get started.

How Can I Transfer My Education Benefits to My Family?
1. You must be on Active Duty or

2. Be in the Selected Reserve

3. You must have 6 years of active duty service with the promise to serve 4 more years (10 total)
4. If you have 10 years of service and for whatever reason can’t commit to more time, you are eligible for transfer benefits
5.  The person receiving benefits must be enrolled in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS)
6. All dependents are eligible for transfer

When Can My Child or Spouse Use the GI Bill?

For whatever reason, the VA has decided there are two separate standards to follow to get your benefits, and when you can use those benefits. I created a table below for you to check which one you fall into so you can plan accordingly with your family.

Husband/Wife Child
When Can They Use the Benefit? Immediately once the COE is received and the school certifies the letter Only after 10 years of service has been completed under honorable conditions
Can They Use the Benefit on Active Duty? Yes Yes
Is there a Timeline when these benefits expire? After 15 years of separation date Have to use before their 26th birthday
What About Housing Allowance (BAH)? Can’t use while on active duty qualified to receive BAH, regardless of your active duty status
Other Qualifications? none Must be at least 18 years old or received a high school diploma

 

What are Survivors and Dependents Education Assistance?

The Dependents Educational Assistance Program (DEA) is specifically designed for anyone who has lost their father, mother, husband, or wife in the line of duty. This program is designed to give spouses and dependents a way to further themselves through higher education, due to a catastrophic loss. As a proud sponsor of the Navy SEALS and Green Beret Foundation, we highly encourage those who’ve suffered unimaginable loss to look into the DEA program or the Fry Scholarship, which we’ll explain below.

Survivor Child
Do I qualify for Benefits? Yes, your benefit starts the day of the soldier’s death Yes, must be 18 years old to start
Do these Benefits Run Out? Yes, must use before 10 years after the death or disability of the Veteran (20 years if your sponsor died on active duty) Yes, ends after the 26th birthday of the child
How Do I Know if I’m Eligible for these Benefits?
  • Is permanently and totally disabled due to a service-connected disability, or
  • Died while on active duty or as a result of a service-connected disability, or
  • Is missing in action or was captured in the line of duty by a hostile force, or
  • Was forcibly detained (held) or interned in the line of duty by a foreign entity, or
  • Is in the hospital or getting outpatient treatment for a service-connected permanent and total disability and is likely to be discharged for that disability (effective December 23, 2006)
  • Is permanently and totally disabled due to a service-connected disability, or
  • Died while on active duty or as a result of a service-connected disability, or
  • Is missing in action or was captured in the line of duty by a hostile force, or
  • Was forcibly detained (held) or interned in the line of duty by a foreign entity, or
  • Is in the hospital or getting outpatient treatment for a service-connected permanent and total disability and is likely to be discharged for that disability (effective December 23, 2006)
What Benefits Do I Qualify For?
  • College or graduate degree programs
  • Career-training certificate courses
  • Educational and career counseling
  • Apprenticeships
  • On-the-job training
  • College or graduate degree programs
  • Career-training certificate courses
  • Educational and career counseling
  • Apprenticeships
  • On-the-job training

What Is the Yellow Ribbon Program?

The Yellow Ribbon Program is the unsung hero to higher education in the form of the educational institution taking a portion of the bill. The Yellow Ribbon Program is designed to assist students who qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill and still have tuition left over. For example, I went to West Virginia University (WVU) and once I got there, I realized my GI Bill would not cover full tuition because I was out of state. Luckily, WVU is a partner in the Yellow Ribbon Program and the school agreed to pay the remainder of the bill. Not all schools are partners of the Yellow Ribbon, so call your school and ask if they’re a Yellow Ribbon partner.

What Happens if I need an Extra Year of Benefits?

There are a couple ways to go about this, first, you can apply for an extension of 1 year of 9/11 GI Bill benefits, secondly, you can apply for Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment benefits. If you use your 4-year benefit and need a fifth, you can apply for an extra year, but you must have a plan to finish your degree. I personally used this extension because I needed an extra semester to graduate.

Want to Learn More: Read Veterans Could Recieve an Extra Year of GI Bill Benefits

 

Conclusion

The Post 9/11 GI Bill is an educational benefit that every veteran receives if he/she serves under honorable conditions and serves at least 3 years on Active Duty or Selected Reserve. You can use this benefit to completely pay for your school, training, or pay of your child or spouse’s college. The GI Bill covered 5 years of my education at WVU and combing that with Vocational Rehabilitation (Next blog) got me a Master’s degree without paying $1.00. The Post 9/11 GI Bill, along with the Yellow Ribbon Program, paid over $70,000 to WVU and for my food and housing. If you’re not sure you want to continue education after your service, read this quote from arguably the greatest American of all time, “Upon the subject of education… I can only say that I view it as the most important subject that we as a people may be engaged in” Abraham Lincoln.