The Forever GI Bill STEM Extension was created to encourage veterans to pursue fields that often require more resources than the 36 months of benefits the Post-9/11 GI Bill allocates. Effective Aug. 1, 2019, the Department of Veterans Affairs extended education benefits for veteran students seeking science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) degrees through the Edith Nourse Rogers STEM Scholarship.
Students who have used up or nearly depleted the entirety of their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits will be able to apply to the VA for extended time and financial assistance. This extension will pay eligible students up to nine additional months of benefits, or a maximum lump sum of $30,000.
The Forever GI Bill STEM extension solves a problem for veterans in STEM education. Veterans may accumulate debt to complete the fifth year of their degrees. Most traditional undergraduate degrees require four years. STEM degrees generally take 144 credits or more to complete, which is an average of 18 credit hours each semester versus the standard 15 credit hours for full-time students. Many student veterans willing to take 18 credit hours per semester still had difficulty completing a STEM degree within four years because they were not granted priority registration for classes at their institutions. Now, for those who qualify, many of these problems will be a thing of the past.
STEM Scholarship Eligibility Requirements
Veterans and Fry Scholars can apply for assistance if they have or will exhaust entitlement of the Post-9/11 GI Bill program within 180 days of applying for the benefits. One of the following must also apply:
- Enrolled in a program of education leading to a post-secondary degree that, under the guidelines of the applicable regional or national accrediting agency that requires more than the standard 128 semester (or 192 quarter) credit hours for completion in a standard, undergraduate college degree in:
- Agriculture science program or a natural resources science program
- Biological or biomedical science
- Computer and information science and support services
- Engineering technologies or an engineering-related field
- Health profession or related program
- Mathematics or statistics
- Medical residency program
- Physical science
- Science technologies or technicians
- Other subjects and fields identified by the secretary as meeting national needs
- Have at least 60 standard semester (or 90 quarter) credit hours in a field listed above.
- Have earned a post-secondary degree in one of these fields and are enrolled in a program of education leading to a teaching certification
STEM Scholarship Priority
The scholarship is limited to $100 million a year in aggregate benefits. Priority will be given to the following individuals:
- Individuals who require the most credit hours to complete a STEM degree.
- Individuals who are entitled to 100% of Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.
Maximum Amount of Annual Assistance (Individuals)
The STEM extension will pay eligible students up to nine additional months of benefits and an amount not to exceed $30,000.
Maximum Amount of Aggregate Assistance (All Veterans)
The total amount of benefits paid to all eligible individuals section may not exceed:
- $25,000,000 for fiscal year 2019
- $75,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2020 through
- $100,000,000 for fiscal year 2023 and each subsequent
STEM Scholarship Additional Details
- An individual who receives stem extension benefits may also receive benefits payable by a college or university.
- Yellow Ribbon benefits may not be used in conjunction with the STEM scholarship.
- Additional benefits are not transferable.
- Spouses and dependents are not eligible for the STEM extension.
- Veterans with a STEM degree can use the extension benefits to pursue teaching certification in the STEM field through an accredited institution.
STEM Program Evaluation
The STEM program will be evaluated on an ongoing basis to measure success and opportunities for improvement. Here are some of the criteria that will be used:
- Completion rate
- Job placement rate
- Median annual earnings of graduates
- Average age
- Percentage of individuals who complete a STEM degree and are employed six months or longer
The Woman Behind the Scholarship Name: Edith Nourse Rogers
The Forever GI Bill STEM Scholarship is named after Representative Edith Nourse Rogers of Massachusetts who was a renowned advocate for veterans and one of the longest-serving women in the House of Representatives. She sponsored legislation such as the GI Bill of Rights and the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps. She also chaired the Veterans’ Affairs Committee during the 80th and 83rd Congresses (1947–1949; 1953–1955).
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News