Get our weekly advice

Keep up-to-date with the latest advice from Abound Grad School.

How the GI Bill® Can Help Pay for Grad School

Ana-Marcela Lopez / Abound: Grad School »

If you have just completed military service and are looking to get into gainful civilian employment, you might wonder if you can get financial aid through the GI Bill to pay for school. The simple answer is yes. The terms GI Bill refers to legal provisions intended to help active-duty servicemen and veterans advance their education.

The current provisions of the GI Bill are quite detailed, and it’s important to understand the history to maximize its usefulness (and to appreciate the original intention of the bill).

History of the GI Bill

The first GI Bill was passed as the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944. It was intended to pay benefits to World War II veterans. These included low-cost mortgages, low-interest loans to start businesses or buy farms, 12 months of unemployment compensation, tuition, and living expenses payments for those attending high school, college, or vocational training institutions.

The original bill expired in 1956, having had 7.8 million people use it for some form of education benefits throughout its run. The bill was quite instrumental in transforming the quality of human capital in the US, which altogether powered economic growth in the 1950s.

In 1984, the bill was revived, this time under the name of the Montgomery GI Bill. This iteration proposed that active servicemen give up $100 for 12 months and, in return, receive $1,564 as financial aid per month throughout 36 months of full-time education. A smaller amount was given to part-time students, and a larger amount was given to full-time students who put in a larger upfront investment. Servicemen could pay up to $600 more, getting $8 of aid for every $1 contributed.

In 2008, the Montgomery GI Bill was expanded further to the GI Bill that we know today, and the US Department of Veterans Affairs took over the management of the benefits from private contractors in 2009.

Post-9/11 GI Bill

The Post-9/11 GI Bill applies to people who have served 30 days of continuous active duty after September 10, 2001, and who left honorably because of a disability that occurred while on duty. Alternatively, it also applies to people who have served actively for 90 days after September 10, 2001, and received an honorable discharge.

This bill covers the full cost of tuition for veterans, housing costs while in school, and the cost of books and other supplies. It also entitles veterans to compensation for the cost of their relocation for education.

How to Apply for Financial Aid under the GI Bill

If you would like the GI Bill to help finance your master’s degree or other post-grad education, you first need to find a school approved by the VA (Department of Veterans Affairs). There is an easy-to-use tool on their website to conduct a search.

After finding a school, you must then apply for the GI education benefits on the same website. The application process requires you to provide your social security number, bank account information, an explanation of your education and military history, and information about the institution you want to attend or are already attending.

Alternatively, you could also request to receive the application forms by mail, which you can then fill out and mail to the VA regional claims processing office that’s nearest to the school. You can also present yourself at a VA regional office and have them guide you through the application process. Sounds like a lot of information? Accredited representatives are available to help you through the entire process.

GI Bill Benefits for a Master’s Degree

The Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits can cover your cost of tuition for a master’s degree if you already have an undergraduate degree. It will cover 100% full resident tuition if you opt for a public school. However, if you attend a private or foreign school, the maximum payable amount is currently $26,042.

You are also eligible for a monthly housing allowance that’s tied to the military’s housing allowance scale.

Yellow Ribbon Program

As seen, there is a cap on the amount of tuition payable by the VA for tuition in a private school. In most cases, this amount is lower than what private schools charge for tuition annually. If you are attending a private university, you can get further benefits through the Yellow Ribbon Program.

This program is a voluntary agreement between some private schools and the VA to waive a portion of tuition costs that surpass the amount ascribed by the Post-9/11 Bill. Once the school waives a certain amount, the VA matches it in order to help the veteran pay little or nothing at all toward their tuition.

To qualify for the Yellow Ribbon Program, you need to have served at least 36 months after September 10, 2001, and been honorably discharged. People who were discharged honorably due to a disability suffered on duty after that date also qualify. The Yellow Ribbon Program benefits can also assist a dependent whose veteran relative met the eligibility criteria.

Transfer of Education

The Post-9/11 GI Bill includes a Transfer of Education Benefits (TEB) Program. This allows active servicemen to transfer some or all their education benefits to their spouse or children. The transfer has to happen before the veteran starts their terminal leave, with the veteran having served six years and agreeing to serve an additional ten.

Spouses and children of active service members can get financial aid through TEB, receiving at least one month of benefits and at most 36 months of benefits.

Make Use of the GI Bill

If you are a veteran looking to get a master’s degree education who meets the GI Bill eligibility criteria, you can visit the VA website or regional VA office to begin the application process. You can also visit our website for information about powering your post-graduate education, financial aid programs, and scholarship opportunities.

Get our weekly advice

Keep up-to-date with the latest advice from Abound Grad School.