As most college students have gone back to school by now, the veterans using their Post 9/11 GI Bill for the first time are probably wondering how much they will receive in Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits this year.

Returning students will have a pretty good idea, based on what they have received in previous years … but without the new increase that went into effect on August 1, as it has each year since 2012. But for new students, the information in this blog post will be helpful in giving them an idea of what determines how much they will get each month while in school. To start figuring it out, the Post 9/11 GI Bill education benefit is calculated based on these four factors:

  1. Tuition/Fees
  2. Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA)
  3. One-Time Rural Payment
  4. Yellow Ribbon Program

Tuition

The VA will pay the in-state per credit rate and all eligible fees when attending a public school. To get the in-state rate, students either must be a resident of the state where the school is located or be considered a “covered” student. For veterans, a covered student is defined as: Living in the state where the school is located (regardless of residency) and enrolled in school within three years of discharge.

For non-resident veterans not meeting the covered student definition, they will pay out-state tuition rates which can be up to three times more than the in-state rate. If attending a private or foreign school, the VA will pay up to $26,381.37 (the 2022/2023 rate) per academic year. In either case, the student must make up the difference between what the Post 9/11 GI Bill pays and what the school charges. More on how to offset that difference when we get to the Yellow Ribbon program.

Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA)

Students classified at more than half-time are authorized a monthly living expense. The amount a student gets that attends class on-campus is based on the number of credits taken, tier level, and the zip code of the school. Each of these variables has a significant impact on the amount received each month.

A student at the 100% tier and classified as a full-time student, would get the full amount based on the zip code of the school (which varies a lot).

Tier levels start at 50% with a minimum of 90 days to 6 months of service. The list below shows the tier level progression with the increase of eligible military service time. As shown, veterans with three or more years of service top out at 100%:

  • 90 days to six months – 50% GI Bill benefit
  • 6 to 18 months – 60% GI Bill benefit
  • 18 to 24 months – 70% GI Bill benefit
  • 24 to 30 months – 80% GI Bill benefit
  • 30 to 36 months – 90% GI Bill benefit
  • More than 36 months – 100% GI Bill benefit

To see what the full MHA amount is for your school, use the BAH calculator. Enter the zip code of your school in the Duty Zip Code Field and select E-5 from the drop down Pay Grade menu. Use the E5 with dependents figure from the results.

To see the difference in the amount paid, let’s look at two public schools at opposite ends of the spectrum: University of California – Los Angeles and the University of Wyoming – Laramie, WY

Type of Payment University of California – Los Angles University of Wyoming
Tuition/Fees $13,249 $5,791
Monthly Housing Allowance $3,171/month $1,347/month
Books $1,000 $1,000
Total/yr. $29,539 $13,123

NOTE 1: MHA is higher for schools located on the East and West coasts than it is for schools located more interior.

NOTE 2: Students taking only online classes get up to half of the national MHA average which is $916.50/month; students attending a foreign school receive a fixed MHA amount of $18,333.00/yr.

Book Stipend

Students can get up to $1,000 per academic year to help cover the cost of books. An amount is paid each semester based on the student’s tier level and number of credits taken.

For example, a student at the 100% tier level would get the full $41.67 per credit per semester; if taking 12 credits, it comes out to $500.04 for the semester. However, a student at the 70% tier level would get $29.17 per credit or $350.04 for taking those same 12 credits.

One-Time Rural Payment

Some students from sparsely populated counties may be eligible for this payment. It is a one-time payment of $500.00. The criteria to get the rural payment is you must live in a county with 6 persons or less per square mile (determined by the most recent census) and physically relocate at least 500 miles to attend school or travel by air to attend school if no other land-based transportation exists.

Yellow Ribbon Program

Many schools are part of the VA’s Yellow Ribbon Program. Under this feature of the Post 9/11 GI Bill, a school can waive up to 50% of the difference between what the VA pays and the school charges in tuition/fees. The VA pays an equal amount to the amount waived by the school, in addition to what the VA already paid in tuition/fees.

For schools choosing the full 50% waiver and the VA’s matching amount, a student in the program is left with no out-of-pocket expense. However, if a school chooses a lesser percentage, the VA matching amount will be less, and the student has some out-of-pocket expense.

Yellow Ribbon programs vary from school to school as far as the number of students in the program at any one time, degree programs covered and how much each student can receive per academic year, but it is a boon to those that can get into the program.

Having 36 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill education benefit is the reason many servicemembers joined in the first place. But it must be used wisely because once it is gone, it is gone forever.

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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.

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