Which GI Bill Is Right for Me – The Montgomery or Post 9/11?

I get asked this question a lot as a GI Bill blog writer  when a veteran qualifies for both the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) and the Post 9/11 GI Bill.  And on the surface, the short answer is really quite simple – it depends.

And, it really does; it depends:

  • where you go to school
  • whether your school is public or private
  • if a transfer of benefits is in your future
  • if you plan to stop after a four-ear degree or continue on for an advanced degree
  • if you qualify for the Hazelwood Act

Where you go to school

There are schools that do not charge tuition for their veteran students. Some states offer a tuition waiver to their veterans as part of their State Military Benefits.

Because a large part of the Post 9/11 GI Bill pays tuition and eligible fees, if you do not have tuition charges, then all you get out of your GI Bill is the housing allowance and book stipend.

If your tuition-free school happens to be in a low cost-of-living area, you may actually make more or at least the same by using the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB). If you had least three years of service and go to school full-time taking 12 credits, you would earn $1,426 per month.

Taking that same credit load under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you would get the book stipend that  breaks down to $125.01 per month and your housing allowance. With the housing allowance averaging $1,200 across the United States, there are many places where the MGIB would pay you more.

Public or private school

With the August 1st GI Bill 2.0 changes now in effect, the Post 9/11 GI Bill pays actual resident student public school charges. If you are a resident student going to a school having a low per-credit rate, it can be a wash as whether the MGIB or Post 9/11 GI Bill is better. I ran a set of numbers for Wyoming and it came out at $1,425.01 per month for the Post 9/11 GI Bill and $1,426 for the MGIB.

However, if you pay out-of-state tuition, then go with the Post 9/11 GI Bill. The VA still pays the instate rate, but you may be eligible for the Yellow Ribbon program which help pays the difference you would otherwise owe. However, the Yellow Ribbon program is not available to MGIB users.

If you attend a private school , then the Post 9/11 GI Bill pays better. Under the GI Bill 2.0 change, the VA pays up to $17,500 in tuition per year for you to attend a private school. Plus, you get your housing allowance, book stipend and may qualify for the Yellow Ribbon program.

Under the MGIB, you would get $1,426 per month and you have to pay your own tuition, fees, books and other education-related expenses earning just $12,834 for a two semester year; about $5,000 less that just your tuition expenses under the New GI Bill.

Transfer of benefits

If in your situation your income between the two GI Bills would be a wash, then the deciding factor can come down to if you have plans to transfer benefits. If so, then it is an easy decision – the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

To qualify if you are on active duty, you had to serve six years on Title 10 orders, of which at least three years had to be after September 10, 2001 and agree to serve an additional four years. With those two requirements in place, you could then make a transfer of benefits request.

However, if you are Selected Reserve member, then you had to serve at least 90-days on a Title 10 order in support of a contingency operation. The rest of your 6/4 service requirement could be either SELRES or active duty. In both cases, you have to still be serving at the time you make your transfer request.

Generally speaking, the MGIB does not offer a transfer of benefit option. The Army did offer it as a test program, but dropped it due to lack of participation. Under the program, a soldier could buy the transfer option for a spouse from his/her reenlistment bonus money.

Bachelor’s or advanced degree

If you plan on getting a four-year degree and not continuing on with your education, the Post 9/11 GI Bill in most cases will be your best choice. If you had all your MGIB entitlements at the time your converted, when you finish using them up, you get your MGIB $1,200 contribution back.

However, if your degree will take more than four years, such as in engineering, or you plan on getting an advanced degree, then you may want to stay with the MGIB for four years (exhausting all of your benefits) and then switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill to get the additional 12 months of entitlement. You could use the extra year to fund your fifth year of school or first year of an advanced degree. But, you would not get your $1,200 contribution back.

Hazelwood Act

For students in Texas who qualify for the Hazelwood Act, the options are:

  • Using your MGIB and Hazelwood act benefits congruently or,
  • Using up your New GI Bill benefits and Hazelwood Act benefits consecutively – New GI Bill first, Hazelwood Act second.

The difference again comes down to whether you want to transfer benefits or get an advanced degree. If you are only seeking a four-year degree, and do not plan on transferring benefits, then it may be better to use both your MGIB and Hazelwood benefits at the same time and get the maximum amount of money.

If you plan on getting an advanced degree or transferring your Hazelwood benefits, then it might be more advantageous to use up your Post 9/11 GI Bill first and either use your Hazelwood benefits towards an advanced degree or transfer your Hazelwood benefits to a dependent or spouse.

If you only qualify for one GI Bill or the other, then the decision is easy. However, if you qualify for both, it can be challenging to figure out which one is the best for your situation. To help you decide, chart out the pros and cons of each program and see which one comes out on top. You want to be sure, because once you convert to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, there is no turning back as the change is irrevocable.


Photo thanks to WingedWolf under creative commons license on Flickr.

16 thoughts on “Which GI Bill Is Right for Me – The Montgomery or Post 9/11?”

  1. i just moved to sc, so i am not a resident. The school and va are both telling me that the va WILL NOT PAY anything for out of state residents. the school is not a yellow ribbon school either, and im told that is the only way the tuition will be paid. so the 17500 only applies to people going to foreign and private school but not even to out of state people? am i wrong here and getting the wrong information? please get back to me. much thanks

    (p.s-im 100% for post 911 gi bill and paid the 1200 and the extra 600 for the mgib)

    -Edwin Gugino

  2. Edwin, someone somewhere has been misinformed. You are being told wrong.

    A lot of schools have a nifty loop hole in their establishment of residency for students. Here is a copy and paste from the school I go to.

    “(MDHE Rule) Adult Students. If an adult student, not a resident, shall present sufficient proof of the establishment of a domicile within the State of Missouri, said student shall be granted resident status at the first enrollment following the establishment of said domicile.”

    So basically, a student here would have to prove that they 1. are an adult. and 2. moved to Missouri with the intention of staying long term, which is proven by a house/apt lease or mortgage.

    See if your school has any such clauses. If it has a Residency Office, they would be the best place to ask for help.

  3. wondering how to provide the grant or benefits to my children for education.I got out in 1990,served during the Persian Gulf.Any info would be very helpful

  4. Eric,

    Are you meaning specifically the GI Bill or just grants in general?

    Because you are already out, you are unable to transfer GI Bill benefits to your children, but still have several options. 1. Check with your state VA. Some states have scholarships for the children of disabled veterans. (if you are disabled.) 2. There are a lot of other grants and non-loan funding out there, read yesterday’s article for some more information on various grants you can try to use for your children. https://www.vabenefitblog.com/non-military-education-grants-for-military-dependent-children/comment-page-1/#comment-5995

  5. If I plan on going for a 4 year degree at a community college, which GI bill is better for me and why? I will have served 4 years with an honorable discharge.

  6. The Post 9/11 GI bill is better because of its higher pay structure. If you use the Montgomery GI Bill, you would get $1,473 per month to attend school as a full-time student and you have to pay your own tuition, fees, books and other education-related expenses.

    If you attend a public school under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the VA pays your tuition and fees and you get a book stipend once each semester calculated at $41.67 per credit and a monthly housing allowance that in most places is around the same amount you would get under the Montgomery GI Bill.

    So I think you can see it is more beneficial to go to school under the Post 9/11 GI Bill. And it gets better. Transfer your 36 months of MGIB over to the Post 9/11 GI Bill and when you have used your last month, you get your $1,200 MGIB contribution back, because the Post 9/11 GI Bill is free.

  7. Hi im planning to finish my bachelor in ucla or uc irvine so in my case which gi bill are you suggesting me to use.

    1. Rob, it depends on what Post 9/11 GI Bill tier you are on. The breakeven point is at a percentage of less than 70%, meaning you will fair about equally with either GI Bill. However, if you are at less than 70%, then most likely you would be better off with the Montgomery GI Bill.

      If you are at the 100% tier and plan to attend either school full-time, the VA would pay for your tuition in full at the resident rate. If you are not a resident of CA, then you may have to pay the difference between the resident and non-resident rate.

      Both schools are Yellow Ribbon schools so if your program is included in their YR program, you would get most if not all of the difference waived/paid.

      As far as the housing allowance, you would get $2,001 per month for either school. You would also get a book stipend per semester at $41.57 (up to the $1,000 yearly cap).

      1. Hello Mr Herrington I enjoyed linetsing to your story, what a lovely story, please come to Miss Newtons class and read us all a story.Hope you enjoy your holidays with your family, see you after the holidays bye.

  8. Hi sir,

    Going to attend a community college in Oklahoma($970 BAH) for 2 years before I transfer to a state college when I ETS in less than 1year. The tuition is only $75/credit hour. I am eligable to recieve 100% of benefits under the Mongomery GI Bill. Should I stick with the old GI Bill for 2 years and then switch to the POST 9/11 when I go to attend the state college? ($150 per credit hour) to pocket the most money?

  9. It depends on Steven what you educational goal is. If you do it as stated in your questions, you would go two years under the MGIB, but then you would only have one year under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, because if you switch with time left on your MGIB, then you would not get the additional 12 months.

    If you plan to get a four-year degree and then stop, I would transfer to the Post 9/11 GI Bill right away. If you plan to go beyond a bachelor’s degree, then you could go for 36 months under the MGIB and then switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill and get an additional 12 months of benefits that you could use toward your advanced degree.

    Under the MGIB, you would get $1,473 per month and have to pay all your own tuition, fees, book, etc. If you used the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the VA pays your tuition directly to your school (public school up to the resident rate or up to $17,500 per year for private school ) and you get a monthly housing allowance almost as much as your MGIB payment and $41.67 per credit per semester in a book stipend (up to the $1,000 yearly limit).

  10. Hello I just recently started school at a community college in SC. I am currently under the MGIB and don’t know if i should change it over to the post 9/11. I want to get the most out of my benifits as i can. I am 40% service connected but was just wanting a second opinion on if i am going the right route with the MGIB and post 9-11

  11. I am currently serving in the Navy and have approximately 2 years left until an honorable discharge. I am a resident of texas and will qualify for the hazelwood act. My question is what are the benefits if using the Hazelwood and Montgomery gi bill at the same time. A housing stipend will also play a big factor in deciding whether to switch to the post 9/11 gi bill. If i use the Hazelwood Act can i just pocket the Montgomery gi bill money and use it as rent?

  12. are you still providing expertise regarding the Hazelwood Act and MGIB or Post 9/11 GIB ? If so this is my situation please advise. I am a AF Reservist Just now trying to go to school. I would only be able to go to school part time at a community college the plan to get my BA doing most of classes on-line.

    What is the best route so far as utilizing the available benefits ?

    Aside from the Hazelwood Act don’t the MGIB, Reserve select GI Bill and Post 9/11 have a expiration date?

    1. Hi Erick. Yes all three GI Bills you mentioned have expiration states, but they differ between Bills. For example, your Reserve GI bill expires either 10 years from your Notice of Benefits Eligibility (NOBE) or you are in more than 10 years or upon your discharge. The Reserve GI Bill does not have any benefit after your are out.

      The MGIB – Active Duty expires 10 years from your date of discharge, while the Post 9/11 GI Bill expires 15 years from the same date.

      Being you are taking classes online, the most housing allowance you could get would be $647.50 per month. On top of that, your tuition and eligible fees would be paid directly to your school and you would get a book stipend once per semester (up to the $1,000 per year cap). The book stipend is figured at $41.67 per credit.

      However, if you could take just one class on campus per semester that applies to your degree plan, you could get the full housing allowance authorized for your schools zip code, which is some cases is twice the online-only rate. I can’t tell you what that rate would be without knowing your school zip code and the number of credits you are taking, but you can figure out what you would get from this website – http://www.defensetravel.dod.mil/site/bahCalc.cfm. Use an E-5 for the Pay Grade and the “with dependents” figure. That rate is for full-time, so if you are part-time, multiply that by your rate of pursuit percentage to get your amount.

      Under the MGIB, you would get $1,564 per month, but you have to pay all your own tuition, fees, books, etc.

      My advice is to figure out what you would net (not gross) under both the Post 9/11 GI Bill and MGIB and then take the one that pays the best.

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