Students at four Oklahoma schools found out this past week that the VA would no longer fund their flight training. Last year several students at other flight schools across the nation met the same demise. The defunding comes from many of the standalone flight schools (and usually not part of a university or college aviation program) were charging an insane amount of money for flight training – to the point where the VA could no longer support it.
But what many students don’t know is that they can use their GI Bill to take a flight training program and still stay in the good graces of the VA. Instead of taking singular non-degree classes to get a certificate or rating, they should take a four-year aviation degree program instead.
Bachelor degree aviation programs are viewed by the VA the same as other four-year degree programs. For students with an end goal of flying commercially, going the degree route is the better choice, anyway.
Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the VA will pay up to 100% of in-state tuition cost at a public school or up to $21,970.46 per year at a private school for a degree program; if taking vocational flight training at a standalone flight school, the amount per year paid out is capped at $12,554.54.
Students using the New GI Bill also receive a monthly housing allowance based on the zip code of the school and number of credits taken, along with up to $1,000 per year in book stipend money. As far as entitlement use, a month in school is a month used.
If using the Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty, it pays a full-time student up to $1,857.00 per month. Using this GI Bill for flight training, entitlement is charged at the rate of one month used for each $1,857.00 paid out, meaning vocational flight training can burn up 36 months of GI Bill entitlement much faster than in 36 months.
Part 61 verses Part 141
Most university and college aviation degree programs operate under the VA-favored Part 141, meaning the school’s flight school curriculum is approved by the FAA and subject to passing regular surveillance audits. Students are also held to passing at least minimum test scores for them to earn their aviation degree. Part 61 pertains to the FAA approval of flight instructors whether associated with a university flight school or privately teaching at a local airport. For commercial flying-bound flight students, Part 141 is the better route to take.
Sample school comparison
Two schools that have been in the business of teaching flying for many years is Kansas State University (K-State) Polytech and University of North Dakota (UND).
With K-State’s program, students receive the following ratings:
- Private pilot
- Commercial I
- Commercial II
- Flight Instructor
- CFI Instrument.
Their total fixed-wing bachelor degree flight program costs around $107,185 of which $38,186 are coded as tuition and fees and the remaining amount of $68,000 in flight training costs.
UND has one of the oldest flight school programs around. Not only does it have some of the most technologically advanced simulators, but also one of the largest collegiate training fleets in the industry and more exposure to all-weather flying. Their program offers:
- Private Pilot
- Intro into ATC
- Altitude Chamber
- CRJ 200 FTD
Total flight training costs for their four-year program averages $96,025, which breaks down into $32,552 for tuition and fees and $63,473 in flight costs.
Because the VA only pays for in-state tuition and fees, the flight costs for neither school would be covered by the VA and would remain the responsibility of the student. However, in many cases, financial aid may be available from the school itself or through other sources including student loans to help defray out-of-pocket flight training costs.
When it comes to using the Post 9/11 GI Bill for flight training, it can be tricky with standalone programs. However, by taking a bachelor degree program, it is viewed by the VA the same as other four-year programs.