The Post-9/11 GI Bill encourages veterans to go to college by paying for part of --and in some cases all -- tuition costs. The bill has a series of rules and maximums and not all veterans can claim full benefits. The bill figures its contribution to a given veteran's college education by looking at the state in which the school is located and giving her either an amount equivalent to the highest in-state tuition of any public university in the state or an amount that covers her full tuition, whichever is lower. The bill does not consider out-of-state rates, though veterans can apply benefits to out-of-state tuition.
The GI Bill does not consider out-of-state tuition when figuring the benefits that a veteran can receive, regardless of if the veteran pays out-of-state or in-state rates. The Post-9/11 GI Bill only pays out benefits calculated from in-state tuition rates. However, if the veteran pays out-of-state rates, he is eligible to receive the highest benefit amount for the state that the school is located in, which is equivalent to the highest in-state tuition of a state-run university or college. For example, if a veteran pays out-of-state rates of $10,000 a semester at a public university where in-state rates are $5,000 a semester, the veteran is eligible to receive the highest in-state rates of any school in that state, not just that school. If the state's flagship school charges $8,000 for in-state students, the veteran is eligible to receive $8,000 to apply to out-of-state rates at the cheaper school.
The Department of Veterans' Affairs publishes a table every year with the maximum tuition rates for each state. The VA calculates each state's maximum rate by looking at the highest tuition for any program at any public university or college, such as a flight school course or a nursing program. Most states' maximums fall between $2,000 and $12,000 per term, with some states in the hundreds of dollars; note that some states waive tuition for veterans. A few states top the charts with extremely high maximums, such as Utah ($85,000 per term), Kansas ($50,000) and Colorado ($45,000).
The Bill awards veterans benefits according to a tier system. Veterans with 36 months of active duty and an honorable discharge are eligible for 100 percent of the possible benefits (in other words, 100 percent of the maximum award in their chosen schools' states). For every six months under 36 months of duty, a veteran's eligibility is reduced by 10 percent: 30 months of active duty comes with eligibility for 90 percent of the maximum awards, 24 months with 80 percent and so on.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill 2.0, which gives veterans more choice in their programs, starts on Aug. 1, 2011. Under the 2.0 Bill, a veteran can choose between all public school in-state tuition and fees or up to $17,500 for a private school each academic year. Some schools may also participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program, which helps veterans cover extra costs. Only veterans with 36 months of active duty can enroll in the program.
- Department of Veterans Affairs; The Post-9/11 GI Bill; December 2010
- Department of Veterans Affairs; 2010-2011 Maximum In-State Tuition and Fees for the Post-9/11 GI Bill; August 2010
- Department of Veterans Affairs; Benefits of the Yellow Ribbon Program; December 2010
- Military.com: New Post-9/11 GI Bill Overview
- Department of Defense: Special Report on the Post-9/11 GI Bill
Calla Hummel is a doctoral student studying contraband in international political economy. She supplements her student stipend by writing about personal finance and working as a consultant, as well as hoping that her investments will pan out.