The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs began paying benefits for the new Post-9/11 GI Bill on August 1. This is great news for service-members because in many cases the 9/11 GI Bill offers increased benefits over its predecessor – the Montgomery GI Bill. However, it is important to note that you have the option to keep the Montgomery GI Bill. This is an important point for eligible veterans and active duty soldiers who are planning to enroll in an online college.
If you served a minimum of 90 days in the armed services after 9/11 than you are eligible for the 9/11 GI Bill; this includes if you were called into duty from the National Guard or Reserves. The amount of time that you were in the armed services following 9/11 does have an affect on what percentage of benefits you are paid. Here is a breakdown:
- 100% – 36 or more total months
- 100% – 30 or more consecutive days with Disability related Discharge.
- 90% – 30 total months
- 80% – 24 total months
- 70% – 18 total months
- 60% – 12 total months
- 50% – six total months
- 40% – 90 or more days
The new GI Bill covers up to 100% of your tuition (depending on your eligibility as seen above), providing that the cost is equal to or less than the tuition at the most expensive undergraduate public school in your state. If you go to a private college and the tuition is more than that, then you are responsible for the rest of the cost.
As long as you are not on active duty, you will also be paid a monthly housing allowance and a yearly $1000 stipend for books and school supplies. The amount of money that you receive for housing is based on the basic housing allowance (BAH) that is paid to the E-5 rank in the zip code of your school. Unfortunately, those taking 100% online classes or distance classes are not eligible to receive the housing stipend.
Transferring Your Benefits
You are eligible to transfer your 9/11 GI Bill benefits to your spouse and children if you have had at least six years of service in the armed forces and you agree to serve four more years, if you have been in the armed forces for at least ten years, or if you are eligible for retirement between August 1, 2009, and August 1, 2013.
If you transfer your benefits to your spouse and you are still on active duty, they are not eligible for the housing allowance or book stipend. However, if you transfer your benefits to one or more of your children, they can receive these additional benefits.
Important Information for Online Students
If you are a 9/11 GI Bill recipient and considering online college, you should definitely look into the Yellow Ribbon Program, which is an agreement between certain higher education institutions and the VA. If a college’s tuition is more than the 9/11 GI Bill benefits will cover, they can pay up to 50% of the remaining tuition and the VA will match that amount. Here are some examples of online schools that are part of the program, and the amount that they have pledged to contribute each year per student:
American Intercontinental University – $4000
DeVry University – $35,000
Everest University – $2000
Full Sail University – $2000
Kaplan University (Florida) – $7320
Keiser University – $3000
Strayer University – $1000
University of Phoenix – $1000
There are many other schools (about 1200) that are involved with the Yellow Ribbon Program, so it is important to research the school that you are interested in to get the maximum benefit amount.
Weigh Your Options
Since the 9/11 GI Bill may not cover all of the tuition costs of a private online college and since you will not receive the housing allowance, it may be that the Montgomery GI Bill is a better choice for you – even with the Yellow Ribbon Program. So, it is extremely important that you calculate the benefit amount that you will receive under both the 9/11 and Montgomery GI Bills for the schools that you are interested in. You must do this before you sign up for the 9/11 GI Bill, because you cannot switch back once you do.
Education Connection realizes that this is an important decision; that is why we have launched a military site that is dedicated specifically to help veterans and active duty service-members and their families make sense of their benefits and find school that are military friendly. We are experts in providing the information that you need to make an informed choice about your education; we will aid you in finding the right school that will help you make the most out of your military education benefits.