For most who entered the service, the GI bill was a benefit that sealed the deal, a college education for you after 4 experience-filled years. Sounds pretty easy right? However, take a decade of changes, pack it into several hundred pages of legislation, and then add the confusing integration of the benefits to each individual school and you may have something. The education benefits given by the Veterans Administration are a significant value to those who utilize them. However, knowing how to use them correctly will save you years of frustration and will add to the great experience known as college.
We shall start with the Montgomery G.I. Bill, also-known-as “MGIB.” The MGIB is for active duty members who enrolled (a selection made at the beginning of service) and paid $100 a month for 12 months. For this meager $1,200, the service member is entitled to receive up to 36 months of college tuition, books, fees, and a housing allowance (once separated from service) on a monthly basis after they completed a minimum service obligation. There is also MGIB for Reservists who have served a six year obligation and are actively drilling. But focusing on the Active Duty MGIB or Chapter 30 as it is known in VA circles, this education benefit will pay for college degree or certificate programs, such as technical or vocational courses, flight training, apprenticeships, or on the job training. Benefits for schooling under the MGIB are generally available for up to 10 years following an honorable discharge from active duty service.
“Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and diligence.”
Another VA administered program for the payment of educational expenses is the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill. Your eligibility for this benefit occurs when you have had a least 90 days of aggregate active duty service after September 10, 2001 and are either still on active duty or have been honorably discharged. This program still covers the same types of educational institutions and will generally provide payments up to 36 months of schooling as well; however, payments are based on a dollar amount instead of a benefit time period like the MGIB. The Post 9/11 GI Bill is available for up to 15 years after honorable release from active duty service. It may also have several additional options that may make it a better choice for you and your family such as eligibility for the Yellow Ribbon Program, annual book and supply stipend, and a transfer of entitlement option – which are significant additional benefits!
There is an important catch regarding your choice between the MGIB and the Post 9/11G.I. Bill . At some point you are going to have to choose between the time benefit of the MGIB and the dollar amount benefit of the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill. The catch is that this choice is irrevocable. Here is how to work through it:
- If you are going to a school that has significantly high costs, like George Washington University or Harvard, you may want to utilize the MGIB because it pays whatever the semester cost is whether you are at Harvard or at your local community college.
- If you did choose you local community college or a less expensive state college, then the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill may be the way to go since you can utilize more benefit because of the lower cost and possibly pass the remainder to your spouse or children.
The MGIB and the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill are certainly the two main ways to pay for college either during or after your military service ends. However, there are other benefits available for some Reservists who are eligible due to being called or ordered to active duty in the wake of a national emergency or war declared by the President or Congress. There are also benefits for survivors and dependents, as well as scholarships for families to further their educational goals by using the veteran’s earned education benefit
This is only scratching the service for educational benefits provided to you, the service member and/or your family members. Take your education into your own hands; these are benefits that you have been given because of the role you play in our nation’s defense. Use your benefits to the maximum extent possible, don’t let thousands of dollars of educational benefits go unused.
More to follow on this topic.
Capt. Rowles, USMC (Ret.)
Education Benefit Resources
- Basic Information – http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/
- G.I. Bill – Post 9/11 Comparison Tool – http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/comparison_tool.asp
- Education Benefits FAQ’s – https://gibill.custhelp.com/app/answers/list