Can the GI Bill be used at private schools? Overseas schools? The answer to both questions is yes, but there are restrictions.
There are multiple versions of the GI Bill; older veterans and military members may have signed up for the Montgomery GI Bill, while newer members will have signed up under the Post 9/11 GI Bill and are subject to additional benefits under the Forever GI Bill legislation passed by Congress to enhance benefits and add protections.
Some potential students may not know which GI Bill program they qualify for, and some may wish to know about transferring out of the Montgomery GI Bill program into the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Others may wish to learn how they can transfer their GI Bill benefits to a spouse or dependent child. Contact the Department of Veterans Affairs directly for issues such as these
Before You Begin
The nature of your GI Bill benefits may affect your school choices in some cases. For example, under the Montgomery GI Bill, there is no housing stipend. The Post 9/11 GI Bill does offer a housing stipend. You can use the GI Bill benefits comparison tool (see below) to get a better look at how these benefits vary between the two.
The Difference Between Attending Public And Private Schools
Attending private school on the GI Bill means that your tuition may not be covered 100%. To accommodate this, explore your Yellow Ribbon Program options which are designed to close the gap between the GI Bill and the rest of the cost of the private school’s tuition.
There may also be state-level assistance, but to claim those you will need to contact the state Veteran Affairs office where your school is located.
Yellow Ribbon options are not offered to those attending classes while on Active Duty. Yellow Ribbon options are also not offered to those attending school overseas unless the school has a main campus stateside. Spouses of active duty personnel are also ineligible for Yellow Ribbon funds.
The Montgomery GI Bill
This older version of the GI Bill allows attendance at VA-approved institutions offering:
- Associate, Bachelor, and advanced degree programs
- Vocational Training
- Technical Training
- Non-college degree programs
- On-the-job learning
- Apprenticeship Training
- Licensing & Certification
- Flight Training
- Work-study programs
The school you choose to attend may be public or private, but you will need to check with the VA or use the VA GI Bill Comparison Tool to determine if that school is on the VA list of approved programs.
The Post 9/11 GI Bill
Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill there are expanded options (compared to the Montgomery GI Bill) to attend public, private, and overseas schools. In all cases the school must be approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the program you enter must also be approved.
Under this version, students receive the lesser of the “actual tuition & fees” your school charges OR a national maximum (set per academic year) for private and foreign schools.
Yellow Ribbon funding may be needed at a private institution, but the VA official site advises potential private school attendees, “Only individuals entitled to the full 100% benefit rate (based on service requirement) may receive this funding, and the matching contribution from the school and VA cannot exceed the full cost of the school’s established charges.”
Unlike the Montgomery GI Bill, the Post 9/11 GI Bill pays a housing stipend for public and private school students. This is based on the enlisted BAH housing allowance for E-5 service members at the with-dependents rate.
Using The GI Bill At Overseas Public And Private Schools
It is possible to use your GI Bill benefits to attend schools (including private schools) overseas, but there are complications. One of the main issues is that overseas schools are not versed in VA processes, requirements, and submission procedures. You will need to begin your application process far earlier than most in order to make sure your school is able to meet the VA requirements for application, processing, payment, class attendance, etc.
The school you choose overseas must be approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs before you apply, but that is only the first step–your chosen school must be able (or learn how) to follow VA requirements for receiving GI Bill funds.
Assuming your selected institution of higher learning meets the criteria, what does it take to use your GI Bill overseas? ALL of the following must apply at application time:
- The applicant is eligible for VA education benefits
- The VA has approved your program
- Your program is located at “an institution of higher learning where you’ll earn a standard associate’s degree or higher” or a degree “of equal value”
- The VA approves of programs overseas issuing degrees similar to “degrees granted by accredited U.S. colleges and universities”
- Overseas private schools must provide degrees “of equal value to those granted by public colleges and universities in the same country” and entrance requirements must be comparable
Remember that there is a big difference between attending classes at a school overseas that is actually administered by a stateside institution and applying for a college which is 100% overseas-based and has no administration, oversight, or other operations in the USA.
Applying For GI Bill Benefits
Do you need to know if you are eligible to apply for GI Bill benefits? You can use the VA’s online eligibility tool to determine which program you qualify for.
If you already know what benefits you qualify for, you can apply for benefits at the VA official site application page.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News
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