The Yellow Ribbon Program

Updated: May 27, 2020

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    The Yellow Ribbon Program is a VA benefit offered specifically to veterans and eligible dependents who are eligible to receive VA education benefits under the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

    Those who need Yellow Ribbon benefits (see below) are often affected by tuition costs for state-supported schools when applying as an out-of-state resident, expensive private school tuition, and graduate school tuition not fully paid for via the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

    What You Should Know About Yellow Ribbon BenefitsThe Yellow Ribbon Program

    Yellow Ribbon options are not offered under the Montgomery GI Bill. Active duty service members and their dependents are also ineligible for Yellow Ribbon benefits even if they have signed up for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. There are exceptions to this policy, which we’ll cover below.

    Those who otherwise qualify for the Yellow Ribbon program are only accepted if they are at the 100% benefit level for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Those who did not serve enough time in uniform to qualify for the 100% benefit level are not eligible for this program at press time.

    How The Yellow Ribbon Program Works

    When you attend a public college or university as an out-of-state student, the fees are traditionally higher than for in-state students. GI Bill benefits alone don’t cover these fees.

    Those applying for higher education at a private institution also face elevated costs, and graduate school applicants face some unique challenges for funding the GI Bill may not fully cover due to the way class attendance is calculated at the graduate level.

    The Yellow Ribbon program offsets the excess fees through a partnership with the institution you apply to; the VA pays a portion of the excess and the school agrees to cover a portion.

    Funding Levels

    The VA official site advises future students that funding levels are not standardized; your chosen institution of higher learning may offer varying amounts depending on the status of the student as an undergrad, graduate student, or doctoral candidate.

    Funding amounts may also vary depending on the type of school. You will need to discuss your Yellow Ribbon options with a school representative to learn what applies at that institution.

    Funding Limitations

    The Yellow Ribbon program can be used to offset the costs for any mandatory expense such as tuition and non-optional fees. Yellow Ribbon funds do not cover expenses such as room and board, late registration fees, parking fines, etc.


    Yellow Ribbon Qualifications

    Who qualifies for Yellow Ribbon Benefits? Enrollment in or eligibility for transfer into the Post 9/11 GI Bill is the first requirement. Those who can apply include:

    • Veterans
    • Qualifying family members of veterans
    • Purple Heart recipients
    • Those eligible for Fry Scholarships

    Program modifications via the Forever GI Bill permit certain active duty applicants to use the Yellow Ribbon program beginning in the year 2022. Full-time attendance is not a requirement to receive Yellow Ribbon funds. Enrollment in this program is first-come, first-served. It is important to apply as early as possible.

    What does it take to qualify for this program?

    • You must be eligible for the maximum benefit rate under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
    • You must not be on active duty or an active duty spouse using transferred entitlement. Exceptions apply to this rule starting in 2020 (see above).
    • Your school must agree to participate in The Yellow Ribbon Program.
    • Your school must certify your enrollment to the VA and provide Yellow Ribbon Program information.

    VA Yellow Ribbon Schools

    The Department of Veterans Affairs announces a list of participating Yellow Ribbon schools on a yearly basis. These schools are announced in July of each year, and that list is effective for each new school year starting in August of the same year.

    Not all schools participate in the program and not all schools qualify. In general, for a school to offer Yellow Ribbon options for veterans and other qualifying students, all of the following must apply:

    • The school currently offers the Yellow Ribbon Program
    • The school has not reached its maximum number of students that can be offered Yellow Ribbon benefits
    • The school must certify the applicant has enrolled and must send the VA Yellow Ribbon Program information

    You read that list correctly – there are limits to how many students may be awarded Yellow Ribbon benefits at a particular school. However, if you participated in the Yellow Ribbon Program this year, you will automatically be in the program next year. This assumes that the school still participates in the program, and you meet these qualifications — You must:

    • Make acceptable progress toward completing your program (according to your school), and
    • Stay enrolled in the school without a break (following the school’s policy), and
    • Have money left in your Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits

    Find A Participating Yellow Ribbon School

    The Department of Veterans Affairs offers a search tool to help future students locate higher education institutions currently participating in the Yellow Ribbon program. If you have not currently signed up for Post 9-11 GI Bill benefits, you can do so at the VA official site. you’ll be required to be signed up for these benefits before applying for Yellow Ribbon funds.

    Every July the Department of Veterans Affairs announces the schools that will participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program for the upcoming academic year, which begins Aug. 1.

    Find out if the school you’re interested in is a 2021-2022 Yellow Ribbon School program participant.

    Forever GI Bill Yellow Ribbon Program Enhancements

    • Effective Aug. 1, 2018 Fry Scholarship  and Purple Heart recipients are eligible for the Yellow Ribbon G.I. Education Enhancement Program.
    • Effective Aug. 1, 2022 certain members of the Armed Forces serving on active duty will be eligible for the Yellow Ribbon Program.

    About The AuthorJoe 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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