As states’ and federal budgets continue to reduce funding for colleges and universities, the bottom-line deficit is usually made up in the form of tuition hikes. As this trend is thought to continue into the future, many prospective students ask “How can I afford to go to college?”

According to the non-profit College’s Trend in College Pricing Report, the 2014/2015 academic year average tuition and fees at four-year public schools ranged from a low of $8,254 in the Southwest to a high of $11,436 in New England. Private four-year schools costs were considerably higher at an average of $28,896 to $39,243 respectively. Those costs don’t include housing, food, books, supplies, transportation and other miscellaneous education-related costs that averaged $23,410 per academic year. With a four-year degree costing upwards of $130,000, how do students pay for college?

Not surprisingly, many students are either forced to choose a cheaper school or take out student loans to attend their first choice school. In 2014, graduating undergraduate students walked across the stage and out into the business world with an average debt of $33,000.

Today, parents and student are still worrying how they will pay for college. The most recent Princeton Review 2015 survey found 90% of parents and students believe the need for financial aid would be “extremely” necessary; that is up from 86% in 2011. However most veterans have either the Montgomery GI Bill, Post 9/11 GI Bill or both, that they can use to help pay for a college degree.

Post 9/11 GI Bill

Veterans with three years of more of eligible service come out of the military with 36 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill entitlement. It pays tuition and fees up to the resident rate for 36 months at public schools; if attending a private or foreign school, it can pay up to $21,085.89 per year. Regardless if public or private, veteran students also get a housing allowance averaging $1,300 per month and up to $1,000 per year for books. The financial support from the New GI Bill helps ensure graduates come out of college with considerable less debt than many of their fellow non-veterans students.

To see the power of the Post 9/11 GI Bill in dollars and cents, let’s use an average public tuition/fees rate of $410 per credit with a course load of 12 credits per semester. For a veteran student at the 100% Post 9/11 GI Bill tier level, the VA would pay all of the tuition/fees of $4,920 per semester – $9,840 per two-semester academic year. Combined with the average monthly $1,300 housing stipend for nine months and a $1,000 yearly book stipend, the Post-9/11 GI Bill is paying $22,500 in educational benefits per year. Over the course of a four year degree, it pays out almost $90,000.

The Yellow Ribbon Program

With the Choice Act all but eliminating out-state tuition for “covered” veterans and family members, the Yellow Ribbon Program is not useful as it once was if attending a public school, but can help if attending a private one. Schools having a Yellow Ribbon Agreement with the VA can waive up to 50% of the tuition not covered by the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Remember it can only pay up to $21,084.89 per year in tuition and fees at private schools. The VA pays an equal amount that the school waived leaving the student with nothing left to pay out-of-pocket. Of course if the school has a lesser percentage in their agreement, the VA ends up paying less and there would be a balance left for the student to pay.

Yes, the Post 9/11 GI Bill is worth a lot. Many non-veterans students would love to have that kind of financial aid. And all it cost was three years of service to your country – something many veteran students most likely would have done anyway.

Related News

Kness retired in November 2007 as a Senior Noncommissioned Officer after serving 36 years of service with the Minnesota Army National Guard of which 32 of those years were in a full-time status along with being a traditional guardsman. Kness takes pride in being able to still help veterans, military members, and families as they struggle through veteran and dependent education issues.