How Much is the New GI Bill Really Worth?

The answer, in a nutshell: a lot. College is getting more expensive each year. As state and federal budgets continue to choke off funding for education at colleges and universities, frequent tuition increases will be the norm. The question that remains constant for many students is, “How can I afford to go to college?”

According to the non-profit College Board’s Trend in College Pricing 2011 report, tuition went up on average 37% in the Middle States and 109% in the Western States over the last decade at four-year public universities. In 2011, tuition and fees ranged from a low of $7,433 in the Southwest to a high of $10,494 in New England. On average, today’s graduate walks off the stage with almost $20,000 in student debt, but for many, the amount is dramatically higher.

Both parents and students are worried about how they will pay for college. A Princeton Review survey showed 86% of parents and students believe they will need financial aid; sixty-six percent said the recession played into where they would apply for school. However, most veterans can use either the Montgomery GI Bill or new Post 9/11 GI Bill to pay for most of their college expense.

Paying for College with the Post 9/11 GI Bill

The Post-9/11 GI Bill not only pays for tuition up to the resident rate for 36 months for eligible veterans attending a public school, or up to $17,500 per year at a private school, it also provides a housing allowance and book stipend. This financial support can make sure our veterans skip across the stage with their diplomas in one hand and very little student debt, if any, in the other.

For example, let’s use an average resident rate of $408 per credit at a public four-year school with a course load of 12 credits per semester. The VA would pay $4,896 per semester in tuition – $9,792 per two-semester academic year. Combined with a $1,200 monthly housing stipend for nine months and a $1,000 yearly book stipend, the Post-9/11 GI Bill is paying $19,792 per year in educational benefits. Do the math and you quickly see it pays out almost $80,000 over the course of four years.

The Yellow Ribbon Program

And it gets better for some. Veterans paying out-of-state tuition or attending graduate school or a private school whose tuition exceeds what the VA will pay might be eligible to use the Yellow Ribbon Program.

If a school has a Yellow Ribbon agreement with the VA, it can pay up to 50% of the difference between what it charges and what the GI Bill pays with the VA paying an equal amount. This can leave very little left for veterans to pay out-of-pocket.

Yes, the Post 9/11 GI Bill is worth a lot. And all it cost you were three years of service to your country – something most of us would have done for nothing anyway.

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