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.
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.