Are you currently employed full-time, but thinking about going to college? Talk about taking on two jobs at once! But even though college is time consuming, the issue of having to pay for food and rent (while receiving an education) is a reality that can’t be ignored. Therefore, a steady income of some sort is a must.

That’s where financial aid comes in. Yes, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a great place to start, but don’t let that be your only avenue, especially if you’re a military veteran or enrolled in active military service. Two of the most overlooked sources of financial aid for veterans and service people are the Post 9/11 GI Bill and the Yellow Ribbon Program.

The Post 9/11 GI Bill pays up to the maximum instate tuition for an honorably discharged veteran who has served at least 90 days in the military (post September 11, 2001). The amount of aid a person receives depends upon the state in which he or she lives and what kind of degree they’re pursuing. Specific financial benefits for those who qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill include:

  • Tuition and fees paid directly to the school (so you don’t have to front the money).
  • A housing allowance for veterans with families who live on campus (not applicable for online degree programs).
  • An annual books and supplies stipend of up to $1,000.

Plus (and this is huge), as of August 1, 2009, for the first time in the history of the military, service members enrolled in the Post 9/11 GI Bill can transfer their education benefits to their spouse or children. Yes, you heard that right. Now if you decide not to use your education benefits your family can have them. Of course, there is a list of qualifications you must meet if you want to give your education benefits away, the biggest being that you must commit to at least 10 years of military service. But even so, the fact that there is now a way to put your kids through college as a result of your military service is a very big deal.

But sometimes even the Post 9/11 GI Bill won’t cover all the tuition costs of your degree, and in that case you can turn to the Yellow Ribbon Program. The Yellow Ribbon program is a supplemental tuition plan for schools that cost more than the Post 9/11 GI Bill will pay for. For example, if you want to go to a college or university where the tuition is higher than the Post 9/11 GI Bill tuition cap, you can apply to the Yellow Ribbon Program to lower the tuition cost for you. If you qualify the college or university will recognize you as an honored veteran and thus reduce the tuition fees down to those covered by the Post 9/11 GI Bill. However, you must qualify for the Post 9/11 Bill in the first place, as the Yellow Ribbon Program is an add-on.

Other considerations of the Yellow Ribbon Bill include:

  • You must choose a college that participates in the Yellow Ribbon program (a list can be found on the program’s website).
  • There is an annual limit on the number of students who can apply (so apply early, if you think you qualify).
  • The Yellow Ribbon Bill is administered through each college’s financial aid office. So each school handles it differently, even though the outcome is the same. (Therefore, pick a school that efficiently administers financial aid paperwork in a timely manner.)
  • The money from the Yellow Ribbon Program is a tuition waiver and therefore never has to be repaid.

Time and space limit me from getting into all the logistics of military financial aid however, the Veterans Administration has produced a great short YouTube video on the details of the The Yellow Ribbon Program.

So what are you waiting for? If you’re a military veteran working at a job that doesn’t exactly thrill you (or even if you just want a better education), now might be the time to go back to school. After all, you did your part for our country, why not let our country give back to you?

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