Post-9/11 GI Bill: New Military Tuition Assistance
The Post-9/11 GI Bill, the new addition to the military tuition assistance programs offered by the Veterans Affairs Department, officially kicks in on August 1st. The new GI Bill offers a timely alternative to job-hunting in a rocky economy: use your military tuition assistance benefits to go back to school instead.
The American Council on Education provides a “plain language Q&A” of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which will pay up to 100% tuition and fees at any state-operated college or university for veterans with at least 90 days of active military duty since 9/11/2001. The new GI Bill also provides a monthly housing stipend and up to $1,000 a year for books and school supplies. If you have to move to be near your campus, the bill gives you a one-time stipend for those costs, or, if you enroll in an accredited distance learning program, that’s also covered by this military tuition assistance plan.
Eligible service members honorably discharged with 36 or more months of active duty will get 100% of the Post-9/11 Bill’s benefits; those with less than 36 months of active service get a prorated percentage. The benefits increase with your amount of active service.
One of the appeals of the new GI Bill is the transferability of military tuition assistance benefits to your spouse or children, an option long desired by service members. A June Stars and Stripes article provides an overview of the transferability process so far.
Another appeal of the Post-9/11 GI Bill is the opportunity to attend a private college, regardless of cost. Under the Post-9/11 GI Bill Yellow Ribbon Program, participating private universities will waive or offset up to 50% of whatever their tuition is above the highest state-operated tuition, and VA will match that same amount. For example, if the tuition bill at a participating Yellow Ribbon university is $30,000 and the Post-9/11 GI Bill will only cover $15,000 (the highest public university in-state undergraduate tuition), the university and VA will split the $15,000 difference.
A new feature that may have temporarily backfired is the extension of GI Bill benefits to National Guardsmen and reservists. Extending benefits to Guardsmen and reservists with at least 90 days of active service was another long overdue policy change, but one loophole got by: it applies only to Guardsmen and reservists who served overseas. This oversight will no doubt be rectified at some point, but probably not this year.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill does not replace the Montgomery GI Bill, it is an alternative program offering a different arrangement for dispensing tuition assistance funding. The primary difference between the Montgomery GI Bill and the Post-9/11 GI Bill is that the first provides a consistent monthly stipend intended to cover all your living and school costs (including tuition and books) and the second provides you with separate payments for tuition and fees, housing, and books. The Post-9/11 GI Bill gives you 15 years to use up your benefits; the MGIB, only 10 years.
While the post-9/11 GI Bill has some welcome new features, it may not be right for everyone. You’ll have to evaluate the benefits offered in each GI Bill program and decide which plan offers you the greatest advantages and the most money. But whether you stick with the Montgomery GI Bill or transfer to the Post-9/11 GI Bill program, this is a good time to make sure you’ve done everything you need to do to maximize your military assistance benefits. After the sacrifices you and your family have made for your country, you deserve the lifelong advantages that evolve through higher education.