You’ve finished your service to your country and now want to get out and go to school. But in preparation, you find out your GI Bill is not enough to pay for a four-year degree. It is a situation that is becoming all too common, but fortunately, there are some things you can do to reduce your out-of-pocket costs.
But first, let’s talk about some of the common reasons why your GI Bill may not be enough to pay for school in its entirety. Many times it usually is a result of these seven things:
- Choosing a private over public school
- Not serving enough years to qualify for the full GI Bill
- Unused family member entitlement
- Not taking advantage of DANTES
- Losing credits upon transferring to a new school
- School closing
- Not using state-offered education benefits
Choosing a private over public school
Many servicemembers are misled into thinking their GI Bill will pay for school – any school and in full. This can be true, but only if attending a public school. Currently the Post 9/11 GI Bill will only pay $22,805.34 per year to attend a private school verses 100% tuition coverage at a public one. However worth noting is if your private school offers the Yellow Ribbon program (and not all do), it can provide extra tuition coverage.
Not serving enough years to qualify for the full GI Bill
To get 100% Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility, a military member must serve for at least three years (unless discharged earlier with a service-connected disability which then only requires 30 days of service.) For those serving less than three years, tuition books and housing is a pro-rated percentage based on the actual number of qualifying months served.
Unused family member entitlement
One advantage of having full Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility is having the ability before getting out to transfer entitlement to a dependent family member or members. However, that deducts from your remaining unused entitlement. And if a family member has no intention of using the transferred entitlement, revoke it back to yourself so you can use it for your education.
Not taking advantage of DANTES
By taking and passing CLEP and other tests offered through DANTES, you can get credit for many introductory classes, yet not have to take the class. This can save a lot of entitlement that you can use for other classes that you would have otherwise had to pay for.
Losing credits upon transferring to a new school
Depending on the school, it may not accept all of your previous credits. If this is the case, shop around as the number of credits accepted vary greatly among schools. It can save you hundreds of dollars out-of-pocket by choosing a school with a liberal credit transfer-in policy.
While unfortunate, this is happening more and more each year. As of right now, there is not a way to recover entitlement lost as a result of a school closing. But that could change if the legislation being considered passes. It would restore entitlement retroactively for classes taken as far back as August 2016.
Not using state-offered education benefits
Many states offer tuition exemption to servicemembers and veterans residing in their state. For example, Texas has their Hazelwood Act that provides up to 150 credit hours. Another example is Connecticut that has 100% tuition waiver at their public colleges and universities.
Finally, don’t overlook filling out a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) application that can show what education assistance is available that can help pay for college (even if you still have GI Bill entitlement left).
The point is very few servicemembers and veterans know the tactics they can use to enhance the power of their Post 9/11 GI Bill when it comes to paying for college. Knowledge is power and having it can save you hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars in out-of-pocket costs.