The rising costs of higher education have plenty of people scrambling to afford college. But one of the major perks of being in the military is the access to reduced cost, or even free, education through the benefit of the GI bill.

The GI bill became policy in 1944 and continued modifications have made it even easier to access for service members and even their families. In fact, one of the leading reasons people join the service is to help afford the rising cost of college education. Whether you’re already serving, or just thinking about it, here are five things you should know about the GI Bill.

1. Eligibility for GI Bill Benefits Varies

Joining a branch of the military doesn’t automatically qualify you for benefits, but you won’t have to serve long to earn at least some eligibility. According to the VA, you are eligible to receive benefits under the Post 9/11 GI Bill if you:

  • Served at least 90 days on active duty on or after September 11, 2001
  • Received the Purple Heart on or after September 11, 2001 and were honorably discharged after any amount of service,
  • Served for at least 30 days on or after September 11, 2001 and were honorably discharged, or
  • You’re a dependent child using benefits transferred by a qualifying veteran or service member.

2. How much money you can get with the GI Bill

How much money is in your GI Bill depends on several factors, including the length of time you served and the cost of the school you’re attending. If you served at least 90 days on active duty, you’re eligible to have 50% of your tuition costs covered. For every six additional months, the coverage percentage increases by 10% until it reaches 100% after serving three years.

However, instead of a flat amount of money, the Post 9/11 GI Bill pays for tuition expenses directly to the school. Therefore the amount of benefit you receive may change based on the cost of the school you’re attending. The amount is currently capped at $26,381.37 per year for foreign or private schools.

3. How long you have to use your GI Bill benefits

GI Bill benefits used to expire fifteen years after your discharge, but not anymore! In 2018, the Forever GI Bill signed by President Trump came into effect. If your discharge date is on or after January 1, 2013, you don’t need to rush to use your benefits because you are eligible for the rest of your life. This bill has given former service members more flexibility so they can decide when it’s best for them to use their benefits.

4. You may qualify for a monthly housing allowance

The GI Bill doesn’t just cover education, it also covers a housing allowance. Your housing allowance is based on the zip code of the school you attend. Currently, online classes are eligible for a flat housing allowance rate of $871 per month, and those attending foreign schools are allowed $1,900 per month. Your allowance varies based on the amount of benefits you are eligible as well as if you are a full-time vs. part-time student.

5. You may qualify for both Montgomery GI Bill and Post 9/11 GI Bill Benefits

The Post 9/11 GI Bill only provides up to 36 months of benefits. But you may be eligible for up to 48 total months of benefits if you also use your benefits under the Montgomery GI Bill.

Continuing your education can help you whether you’re planning to continue your military career or transitioning into the private sector. If you’re planning to join the military or have already served, taking advantage of the Post 9/11 GI Bill can help you continue your education while avoiding a major hit to your wallet.

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Brynn Mahnke is a freelance writer specializing in researching, writing, and ghostwriting for clients in the career, finance, SaaS, and B2B/B2C niches. She focuses on writing case studies, whitepapers, ebooks, and articles showcasing the value her clients bring to their customers. When she isn't writing, you can find her running, cycling, or wrangling children. She can be reached through her website or at