As we enter the New Year, a provision of the Forever GI Bill to take effect later this year (August 1st) will be a new way for some Post 9/11 GI Bill students to get an additional education benefit. The new provision is the granting an additional 9-month academic year of entitlement (not to exceed $30,000) or a $30,000 lump sum payment to students enrolled in a post-secondary STEM program.

STEM Programs Covered

To be eligible for the additional benefit, students must have completed at least 60 semester hours in one of the post-secondary STEM programs listed below that require more than 128 semester hours to complete. The STEM programs included are:

  • biological or biomedical science
  • physical science
  • science technologies or technicians
  • computer and information science and support services
  • mathematics or statistics
  • engineering
  • engineering technologies or an engineering-related field
  • a health profession or related program
  • a medical residency program
  • an agriculture science program or natural resources science program
  • or enrolled in a STEM teaching certification program
  • or other subjects and fields identified by VA as meeting national needs.

Two of the other requirements are:

  • The student’s Post 9/11 GI Bill entitlement have or will have been exhausted before the completion of the program.
  • S/He must apply for the additional benefit by submitting a forthcoming application for the Edith Nourse Roger STEM Scholarship

Because scholarship funding is limited to $25 million in fiscal year 2019, priority of award will first go to Post 9/11 GI Bill holders at the 100% tier level that require the greatest number of months to complete their STEM degree and then work downward from there based on the number of months needed until the funding is exhausted. Funding will increment up with each future fiscal year and will top out in 2023 at $100 million.

Increasing the Online Monthly Housing Allowance

The second way to maximize Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits is not new, but is little-known and not used much. Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill rules, undergraduate online-only students get around half of the monthly housing allowance (MHA) their brethren attending classes on campus receive. That can mean a difference of $825 or more per month in their MHA amount. One way to get the full MHA is for online-only students to take one class per semester at a local college or university and the rest of their classes online.

To get the increase, two caveats must be met: (1) the classes must be needed to graduate and (2) the total number of hours of classroom instruction of the on-campus class must equal, or be greater than, the number of credit hours awarded for the course multiplied by the number of weeks in the term, and meet at least every other week. For example, if a student is enrolled in a 3-credit class over a 16-week semester, the class must be scheduled for a total of 48 hours of in-class sessions, along with meeting at least every other week.

While these two ways are only applicable to Post 9/11 GI Bill users in STEM programs or taking online-only classes, they are additional ways (among several others) to help them maximize their GI Bill education benefit. You earned it, so use it!

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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.