Written with Bob Dannenhold (Collegeology/Application Navigation)

What is the Post 9/11 GI Bill?

The Post 9/11 GI Bill made more than 2 million service members eligible for the most generous veterans’ education entitlement program since World War II. But, unlike the original GI Bill, the amount of support a vet receives varies depending on both the location of the school, college or university (relative to where the vet resides), and the type of degree being pursued.

What do my benefits cover?

  1. The Post-9/11 GI Bill pays:

    1. All public school in-state tuition fees.

    2. Private and foreign school costs up to $17,500 annually

  2. Most veterans are entitled to 36 months of eligibility, or 48 months if they are utilizing more than one program.

  3. In addition, the Yellow Ribbon Program can help cover out-of-state fees, some private school fees (if they are a participating school) and other costs above the cap.

  4. All of these benefits are transferable to other qualified family members, including eligible dependents such as spouses and children. You have to request to transfer unused GI Bill benefits to eligible dependents while serving as an active member of the Armed Forces. A family member who is enrolled in the Defense Eligibility Enrollment Reporting System (DEERS) is eligible to receive benefits at the time of transfer. You can find more information at www.tricare.mil/deers.

  5. The cost of taking the SAT, GMAT, LSAT or any national exams required for admission to an institution of higher learning is also covered.

How the Post 9/11 GI Bill Can Help Pay for College

Benefits for state universities are calculated based on the cost of the highest in-state tuition for residents, including fees. If you are not a resident of that state, the difference may be waived, or Yellow Ribbon funding may cover the difference. All qualifying vets get full compensation for all public school in-state tuition and fees.

Benefits for private schools and universities and schools abroad vary, but are capped at $17,500 annually. Again, some private schools might waive the difference between this amount and their actual fees if they are higher. If not, qualifying vets at participating private schools can use Yellow Ribbon funding to cover the difference.  

These benefits for private and public schools and universities apply to both graduate and undergraduate degrees, and vocational/technical programs. However it is important to check in advance about what is specifically covered. 

Questions to Ask About Your Veterans Benefits

When deciding which college is right for you, here are a few questions you need to find the answers to understand which benefits you are entitled to and any special considerations you might need to keep in mind. 

  • Which Post-9/11 GI Bill tier or payment rate am I eligible for?

  • Which benefit offers the greatest compensation to me?

  • Is the type of education or training I am seeking covered?

  • Am I utilizing other education benefits that may be altered by my decision?

  • Will I need to take online or distance learning credits?

  • Is there a deadline for the completion of the education or training?

  • Am I eligible for a Transfer of Entitlement, and is this a consideration for me?

  • Do I have entitlement remaining under another VA education program?

10 Tips for Veterans Applying to College

  1. Understanding what benefits are available to you is an important first step. A good place to find the answers is the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Education phone line, which will connect you with a helpful person who is ready to spend as much time as it takes to answer every question you may have: 1-888-442-4551.

  2. College is a new experience. You will return from service with an impressive cache of skills and experiences, but especially if you went straight into the military from high school, navigating the college application process can be unfamiliar territory. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you feel lost.

  3. You might need to shift your mindset. You need to start thinking of yourself in terms of your strengths and abilities as students and approach the world as someone who is inquisitive and questioning rather than someone who is always obedient. 

  4. Before you apply to college, consider first getting involved with either volunteering or a low-stress job. Doing so will give you a chance to experience new people and new responsibilities without the pressures of college. It also might give you something new to write about in your personal statement.

  5. Loved ones can be an important source of support during the college admissions process. Involve your spouse or partner, or even a close friend, when working on identifying your goals for higher education. Invite them to come on campus visits or meetings with admissions officers. 

  6. If you are anxious about taking standardized tests like the ACT and SAT, call the admissions office to see if they are willing to waive the requirement for returning veterans. You also might check out test-optional schools or our post on dealing with testing anxiety.

  7. On-campus veterans resource centers at your university can be an important source of information and support. When applying, reach out to connect with current students who have served and they may have staff that can answer questions about benefits eligibility.

  8. You might be able to use your military training towards college credit. An increasing number of colleges now award military students credit toward degrees based on training, coursework, and occupational specialty. Depending on the degree the service member is seeking, credit may be awarded for use towards an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree program. This is coordinated by The American Council on Education. 

  9. Your experience in the military can make an excellent topic for your personal statement. Think about where you were intellectually and emotionally when you joined the armed forces, where you are now, how your military experience has possibly influenced you, and where do you want to go in the future.

  10. Enrolling in college is another transition, just like transitioning to being home. You might have spent years learning about the military but may have had only one week of  “civilian transition training” to unlearn it.