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5 Tips to Maximize GI Bill Education Benefit

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Question

I just got out and I want to know how I can get the most use out of my GI Bill education benefits. -- Dan

Answer

Dan, many newly separated veterans know they have the 36 months of Post-9/11 GI Bill or Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) entitlements, but are unaware how to maximize the use of their benefits. Outlined below are five tips to get you the most mileage from each benefit.

Tip #1 - Converting Military Service to Credits

The American Council on Education (ACE) evaluates every military job and skill level. Based on their evaluation, they assign a certain number of credits that you can be awarded. Take, for example, an E-6 11B Infantryman, which you wouldn’t think would convert to any college credits. ACE notes it is worth 10 credits in the lower division, associate or baccalaureate category:

  • 1 in map reading
  • 1 in first aid
  • 2 in record keeping
  • 3 in personnel supervision
  • 3 in human relations

So automatically, you have 10 credits and have not taken a college class yet. Ten credits translates into not having to take three 3-credit introductory electives, plus it didn't cost you any GI Bill entitlement to get the credits.

Tip #2 – Mix Online and On-Campus Classes

Online learning has revolutionized the way we go to school and for good reason--flexibility. Now you can study when it fits into your lifestyle. You can go to school anywhere as long as you have an Internet connection.

But monetarily, that might not be your best all-around option. Why? If you are a full time student taking all your classes online, you only get half of the Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance ($673.50). However, if you take just one on-campus class per semester, you get the full monthly housing allowance - double of the online-only amount.

Tip #3 – Use the Montgomery GI Bill

In some cases, you may actually earn more by using the Montgomery GI Bill, provided you are eligible. As of this writing, the MGIB pays $1,473 per month and you have to pay all your own education expenses.

If you plan to go to a school where the authorized housing allowance is low and veterans do not pay tuition, you may be financially better off with the old GI Bill. Also, if you are at the 50% or less tier of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, you may also be better off with the old GI Bill. In either case, do your homework to see which one is financially right for you.

Tip #4 – The Yellow Ribbon Program

For Post 9/11 GI Bill students at the 100% tier and paying out-state tuition or private school tuition exceeding the $17,500 per year cap, then the Yellow Ribbon can be your financial holy grail. If your school has a Yellow Ribbon agreement with the VA, then your school can pay up to 50% of the difference between what they charge and what the GI Bill pays. The VA pays an equal amount leaving you with very little, if any, out-of-pockets costs. Just be sure to ask about the percentage they cover and if your online degree program is included in their agreement.

Tip #5 - The Rule of 48

Many students qualify for both GI Bills , but don’t know that if they switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill with MGIB benefits left, they only get that same number of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits. However, if they first use up all their MGIB benefits and then switch, they can get an additional 12 months of education. Crazy, but true.

So there you have it - five of the most popular ways you can use to squeeze your GI Bill for all it’s worth. You earned your GI Bill benefits - now get the most out of it.

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