The short answer is “It depends”. Unlike the Montgomery GI Bill that has a fixed monthly amount, the newer Post 9/11 GI Bill payout is variable as the amount it pays is primarily driven by the location of a school and the tier-level of the student.
The Post 9/11 GI Bill is the most lucrative in the GI Bill’s history, as well as being the most unique in its pay structure. Its tier levels range from a low of 50% to a high of 100%; a student’s tier level is determined by the length of military service. With at least 90 days, but less than 6 months, a student is at the 50% level; with 6 months to 18 months of service, the tier level jumps to 60%. After that, with each additional 6 months of service, the tier increases 10% until the 100% tier is reached with three years of service. Students that served for at least 30 continuous days and have a service-connected disability are also at the 100% tier.
Students with Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility have 36 months of entitlement they can use for education – enough for four 9-month academic years. And depending on their tier level, may have access to the following features:
- Tuition and fees
- Monthly housing allowance (MHA)
- Book Stipend
- Relocation fee
- The Yellow Ribbon Program
The first three features are tier dependent, meaning the amount the VA pays varies according to the student’s tier level; the last feature can only be used by students at the 100% tier.
Tuition and fees
The Post 9/11 GI Bill is unique in that tuition and fees are paid directly to the student’s school, based on the student’s tier level. The amount schools receive is based on their resident tuition and fee rate – the rate charged to students who are considered residents of the state where the school is located, or in the case of non-resident students, meet the resident student definition of the VA’s Veteran Choice Act.
In the case of private or foreign schools, the VA pays up to $26,381.37 per year. In many cases, this does not cover even half of a year’s worth of tuition and fees.
As far as fees, the VA pays common, ordinary fees that apply to all students.
A monthly housing allowance (MHA)
Unlike tuition and fees, the monthly housing allowance is paid to the student and is based on the BAH rate for the zip code of the school. In the case of schools with satellite campuses, the zip code used is the location of the campus that the student attends and not where the main campus is located.
The average MHA amount across the Nation right now is $1,700/month, but it varies widely with the highest amounts paid for students going to schools on the East and West Coasts.
For example, a student attending SUNY receives $3,294/month in MHA while a student attending the University of Wyoming receives $1,302/month. Not all students that are Post 9/11 GI Bill eligible receive MHA; to be eligible, a student must be taking enough credits to be considered a more than a half-time student.
So for example, if a school considers 12 credits to be full-time, then the student must take at least 7 credits to qualify for the MHA. After meeting that requirement, the amount received depends on the school’s location and student’s tier level.
Students taking all of their classes online receive half of the MHA national average or about $850 per month. However, students meeting the requirement of a hybrid class – courses which combine classroom instruction and distance learning – receive their full MHA. Students that had resident classes converted to online due to COVID-19 will continue to receive the full resident MHA rate through December 21, 2022 (unless it is further extended).
Like the MHA, the book stipend is also tier-level driven and paid directly to the student. Book stipends are received at the start of each semester and is calculated at $41.67 per credit hour with an academic yearly cap of $1,000.
Certain veterans or dependents using the Post 9/11 GI Bill could be eligible for the one-time rural relocation fee of $500.00. To receive the relocation fee, a student must reside in a county with 6 persons or less per square mile and either physically relocates at least 500 miles to attend a school or travels by air to attend a school if no other land-based transportation exists.
The Yellow Ribbon Program (YRP)
This feature of the Post 9/11 GI Bill may be available to students at the 100% tier who pay non-resident tuition at a public school or attend a private or foreign school.
Under the YRP, a school can waive up to 50% of the unpaid portion of tuition. The VA in turn, matches the amount the school waived, so at the maximum percentage waiver, the student would not have any out-of-pocket expenses. However, the school can waive a lesser percentage in which the VA would pay less and there would be some out-of-pocket expenses. The additional amount the VA pays is on top of the tuition and fees they already paid.
However, because a school determines their own Yellow Ribbon Program, they set their parameters in their agreement with the VA; parameters include the percentage waived per student, number of students accepted, and the degrees or programs covered in their YRP.
Eligible students must apply and if chosen would receive the school’s YRB benefits and additional payment from the VA that would be applied against the outstanding unpaid balance.
The Tier Difference
A student’s tier level impacts how much the VA pays and consequently the unpaid balance. For example, let’s look at the University of Kansas at Lawrence, KS. The GI Bill Comparison Tool shows at the 100% in-state rate, the VA would pay $11,166 per year in tuition/fees to the school, $1,482/month in MHA and up to $41.67 per credit (up to the $1,000/year max) in a book stipend to the student.
However if the student’s tier level is 60%, the amounts paid would be $6,699.60 in tuition and fees, $889.20 in MHA and $25.00/credit in book stipend (up to a $600/year max). This would leave an unpaid tuition amount of $4,466.80 per year that would be the responsibility of the student to pay.
The answer to the question in the title of this article, “How much money is in the GI Bill? was it depends. Based on the same entitlement use – a month of entitlement for a month of school – here is a comparison of how the amount can vary based on the highest and lowest amounts in the U.S. The yearly maximum for a student attending a private school located in San Francisco would be $26,381 in tuition and fees, $41,526 in MHA and $1,000 in book stipend for a total of $68,907.
The lowest yearly amount is for a student attending Central Louisiana Technical Community College in Alexandria, LA would be $4,098 in tuition and fees, $8,073 in MHA and $1,000 in book stipend for a total of $13,171/year.
Montgomery GI Bill – AD
By comparison, the older Montgomery GI Bill – AD pays a full-time student $2,150/month. The student must pay their own tuition, fees, books and other education-related expenses out of that monthly amount. And it uses entitlement at the same rate as the Post 9/11 GI Bill – a month of entitlement per month of school.