A Guide to GI Bill® Benefits and Resources

4 min read

Share this Article

GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government website at https://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill.

  • The GI Bill offers unique educational benefits to veterans and service members.
  • The Post-9/11 GI Bill and Montgomery GI Bill have different eligibility requirements.
  • One of the biggest benefits is full tuition coverage at in-state universities.

Travis Beagle had a childhood dream of joining the military. And so in 2008, he decided to leave Ferris State University and serve seven years of active duty in the U.S. Army.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Ready to Start Your Journey?

His time in the military led to a newfound passion for aviation maintenance, and once he left the Army, he enrolled in an aviation maintenance program. The best part? The Post-9/11 GI Bill meant Travis didn't need to apply for student loans or even worry about the cost of books.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill covered his tuition in full and provided a stipend for course materials. It also paid out a housing allowance — a monthly stipend fixed to a state's cost of living. As part of the military discharge process, Travis had to complete classes on the GI Bill, which covered the differences between the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the Montgomery GI Bill.

In this guide, we'll go over the most common questions college students have about the GI Bill. To learn more about the bill, visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) website.

Post-9/11 GI Bill vs. Montgomery GI Bill

There are fundamental differences between the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB). While most college-bound students opt to apply for benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, prospective students who enlisted in the U.S. Armed Forces after September 11, 2001, qualify for both the MGIB and the Post-9/11 GI Bill and can decide which option to use for school.

Both versions of the GI Bill can be applied to a variety of academic programs — not just four-year degrees. According to the VA, the following are qualifying education expenses for the GI Bill:

Montgomery GI Bill

There are two MGIB enrollment options. The first is the Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty (MGIB-AD). Active service members must have a high school diploma or GED certificate and pay $100 per month for a year. You will become eligible to receive a monthly educational benefit once you've completed the minimum service obligation.

The second option is the Montgomery GI Bill Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR), which targets reservists who maintain a Selected Reserve six-year obligation and are actively drilling. Those eligible for this bill may receive up to 36 months of benefits. The MGIB-SR can be used for all of the same programs as the MGIB-AD, along with co-op training and certain refresher and remedial courses.

Post-9/11 GI Bill

Individuals who served at least 90 days active duty, who were honorably discharged, or who joined the military on or after September 11, 2001, qualify for the Post-9/11 GI Bill (Chapter 33). Dependent children who have transferred benefits from a qualified veteran or service member also qualify.

If military service ended before January 1, 2013, your GI Bill benefits are eligible for 15 years. But if service ended on or after January 1, 2013, your GI Bill benefits never expire.

Benefits cover tuition and fees — including 100% tuition for in-state public universities — and money for housing, books, and course materials. Those moving from a rural area to attend school may qualify for an additional one-time payment of $500 through the GI Bill.

Common Questions About the GI Bill

Get answers to some of the most common questions service members have about the GI Bill.

What Are the Eligibility Requirements for GI Bill Benefits?

Researching VA benefits and GI Bill eligibility is a critical first step. The VA outlines guidelines that can help you determine what the GI Bill can cover for you. For instance, if you're entering a field that requires expensive exams, you might be able to use the GI Bill to cover testing fees. Additional benefits include flight training, foreign exchange programs, apprenticeships, and distance learning.

Once you've decided on a program, it's important to research how much tuition assistance you can get for a particular school. The GI Bill comparison tool lets you search by state or school. Knowing the amount of tuition that'll be covered and the housing allowance for a particular region could affect your decision.

You'll still need to submit a college application like other applicants, so take note of upcoming application deadlines.

What Paperwork Do I Need to Fill Out for Education Benefits?

You can apply for GI Bill benefits on the VA website. Be sure you have the required materials, including your Social Security card and bank information, and check that your eligibility status is correct before applying.

Should I Use the GI Bill If I'm Uncertain About My Career Path?

The VA offers career counseling to veterans who qualify for educational assistance, service members who were not dishonorably discharged, and service members who left the military within the past year.

Career counseling services can help you determine the right career for you, whether that's within or outside the military. Services also include assistance with finding a training program or job and adjustment training to help with the transition from military life to the workforce.

Does the GI Bill Cover Public and Private Colleges?

The Post-9/11 GI Bill covers 100% of tuition and fees for in-state students at public schools. For private or foreign schools, the GI Bill covers a predetermined maximum dollar amount, which currently sits at $26,040 for the 2021-22 school year.

You can review the GI Bill resident rate requirements to see if you qualify for in-state tuition.

Additional GI Bill Resources for Students

  • Change Your GI Bill School

    Students who wish to transfer to a different school or change their vocational program must fill out a form to transfer their benefits.

  • Transfer Your GI Bill Benefits

    If you do not use, or do not intend to use, your GI Bill benefits, you may be able to transfer them to a spouse or children. The transfer must be approved by the U.S. Department of Defense.

  • Check Your GI Bill Benefits

    If you are using your GI Bill benefits or have any remaining, it's important to keep track of what's still available to you. Post-9/11 GI Bill users, or those who've received an application decision, can access their information through a DS Logon, My HealtheVet, or ID.me account.

  • Yellow Ribbon Program

    Valid at degree-granting institutions only, this program can help individuals pay for out-of-state private school and graduate school when all costs are not covered by the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

  • CareerScope

    This online assessment helps you identify potential career paths and professional interests.

Reviewed by:

Portrait of Angelique Geehan

Angelique Geehan

Angelique Geehan works to support and repair the connections people have to themselves and their families, communities, and cultural practices. A queer, Asian, gender-binary nonconforming parent, Geehan founded Interchange, a consulting group that offers anti-oppression support. Geehan organizes as part of several groups, including National Perinatal Association's Health Equity Workgroup, the Health and Healing Justice Committee of the National Queer and Trans Asian and Pacific Islander Alliance, QTPOC+ Family Circle, and Batalá Houston.

Editor's Note: This article contains general information and is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Please consult a professional advisor before making decisions about financial issues.

Feature Image: SDI Productions / E+ / Getty Images

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Compare Your School Options

View the most relevant schools for your interests and compare them by tuition, programs, acceptance rate, and other factors important to finding your college home.