With a finite number of GI Bill months of entitlement, students need to conserve as much as they can. One way is to decide on a degree major and then stick with it. By changing majors, certain credits will not transfer and end up as wasted benefits. Here are five more tips students should use to maximize mileage on their GI Bill benefits.
As an online-only student, take on-campus classes
While being able to take classes from the comfort of a home provides flexibility and cuts commuting costs, it also limits the amount received in Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance. According to the most recent figures, full-time online-only students max out at $783 per month.
However, by taking just one class per semester that applies to the student’s degree plan at a local school (and the rest online), a student can receive the full housing allowance amount. Students will have to be approved from the online school to take classes at a secondary school, but it is easy to do and in most cases will be approved. Once the secondary class is completed, the school sends the transcript to the primary (online) school and the class is credited to the degree plan.
Yellow Ribbon Program advantage
Using the Yellow Ribbon Program (YRB) can be a boon to private school students. With the Post-9/11 GI Bill only paying up to $23,084 per year in tuition, the bill is not always paid in full. However, if a school has a Yellow Ribbon agreement with the VA, it can pay up to half the difference and the VA pays an equal amount. This can reduce the amount due down to zero. Of course, if the school has a lesser percentage in their agreement, the VA ends up paying less and there may be a small balance due that becomes the responsibility of the student.
Getting 12 additional months of benefits
For students having two or more GI Bills with an education goal of getting an advanced degree, working the system to get that additional time can pay up to half for an advanced degree. To get this additional time, students have to first use up all 36 months of their Montgomery GI Bill (or another GI Bill, but not the Post-9/11), switch to the Post-9/11 GI Bill and get the additional 12 months of benefits (along with an additional five years to use it).
Credit for military service
This is a great way to conserve on GI Bill entitlement. The American Council on Education has converted military schools and Military Occupational Specialties (MOSs) into lower and upper division credits. Many schools have a maximum number of credits they’ll accept (many use 30 as their guide), but whatever they can apply to a degree plan means fewer classes taken and less entitlement used.
Pay for the first two years of school yourself
Finally, as counter-intuitive as it may sound and depending on your education goal, paying out-of-pocket for two years at a community college is a way to save GI Bill benefits for later – when tuition is more expensive. Then use your Post-9/11 GI Bill to pay for the last two years of a bachelor’s degree and two years of a graduate degree. With the cost of school going up each year and graduate school tuition really expensive, using the GI Bill this way only makes sense.