Bill Proposal Would Allow Veterans to Use Post-9/11 GI Bill as Collateral for Small Business Loan

A new bill was recently proposed to Congress that, if enacted, would allow veterans to use their Post-9/11 GI Bill as collateral to obtain a small business loan.

On the surface, I like the idea. The GI Bill serves a great purpose—to help prepare veterans for life after the military. But not everyone is cut out for college, and not every job requires a degree. In fact, I’ve known many successful entrepreneurs and small business owners who either didn’t have a degree, or who started a business in a field not directly related to their degree (including yours truly; my business has nothing to do with my degree).

That’s why I find this idea intriguing. It’s also not far out of the scope of previous programs. Veterans were offered small business loans in the decade after WWII. Over 200,000 small business loans were granted during that era, and those small businesses were an integral part of the decades of prosperity that followed the war.

What are Current Entrepreneurship Options for Veterans?

There are many programs to help veterans get into entrepreneurship. But most of them only offer training. And that will only get you so far in many businesses that require startup capital.

For example, the VA currently only pays for entrepreneurship training through the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) (more info). But there aren’t many other options through the VA.

There are some grants or loans through the Small Business Administration (more info). Some states and private institutions also offer grants or loans to veterans.

Unfortunately, there is no way to tap into any GI Bill funds for many different types of entrepreneurship training, or for a loan to start, purchase, or expand a business.

Info About the Proposed Bill

The proposed bill has some checks and balances to help veterans get off on the right foot and to prevent fraud. According to Military.com:

Before a veteran could access that funding for loan collateral, the business plan would have to be vetted and approved by an independent board of business experts. The veteran would also have to attend a boots-to-business course at an accredited university.

With that done, the veteran would then apply to access the capital in their G.I. Bill as a no-interest loan to be paid back over 10 years.

I like the checks and balances in place. Handing someone a large loan without training or other approval measures would be a recipe for disaster for many people.

What Are the Long-Term Implications?

I like the idea in general, but Id like to see more details and information about the proposal.

The biggest concern I have is this is a loan, not a grant. So veterans would have to put their education benefit on the line to pay back a loan. In other words, they are trading the opportunity to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in education benefits so they can take on debt.

  • What happens if they default on the loan?
  • Do they lose their GI Bill forever?
  • Do they get to keep their GI Bill benefits if they repay the loan in full?

Let’s dive even deeper. Small businesses are notoriously risky. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), approximately half of small businesses fail within the first 5 years. There are many reasons for small businesses failing, most of which fall outside the scope of this article. So what measures are being taken to help veterans succeed beyond the initial training and approval?

  • How robust is the training and mentorship program?
  • Are there any ongoing training programs or resources?

What I Would Like to See

Overall, I like the idea of supporting small businesses. I’d love to see more details and see the answers to the questions raised above. And I would hope there is some form of ongoing mentoring program or access to resources.

But more than that, I’d like to see this changed to a grant instead of a loan, or possibly a hybrid grant/loan program.

The cost of offering a grant instead of a loan would certainly be much higher than using the GI Bill as collateral for a loan. But it would also better equip veterans for life on the outside, and give them a better shot at success. There would, of course, need to be checks and balances in place to prevent fraud. Otherwise, it would be too tempting for many veterans to take a quick small business course in order to cash in their GI Bill.

But the long-term costs of such a program could actually be less expensive than paying for 36 months of college benefits, which can exceed $175,000 when taking tuition, BAH, book stipends, and other costs into account.

A hybrid grant and loan option could be done for much less than $175,000. For example, a program could be constructed in a manner that would put the veteran through a several month small business or entrepreneurship course, then give them a grant and/or upon completion of the small business program and approval of their written business plan.

There are many ways this could be done. Such as a flat rate grant, or perhaps the business plan could call for x-amount of capital. This could be provided with a portion of the amount as a grant, and the other portion as a loan. Requiring part of the amount to be a loan gives the veteran some skin in the game and incentive to be successful. And giving part of the amount as a grant could both save the government money and help the veteran more easily succeed. And it might just drive a better return on investment for the veteran and the overall economy.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Using the Post-9/11 GI Bill – Tips to Make the Most of Your Benefits (Podcast 014)

Are you familiar with the Post-9/11 GI Bill? Many veterans who served after September, 2001 are eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill, but don’t know much about the benefits, whether they are eligible, or how to use this benefit. In this podcast, we discuss we walk you through the process of qualifying for the Post-9/11 GI Bill and what the benefit covers, including how to determine the maximum tuition rates, and your BAH or housing allowance.

We also discuss how to actually use the Post-9/11 GI Bill (hint: all you need to do is qualify for the benefit, be accepted to your school, and your school should do virtually everything else!).

Using the Post-9/11 GI Bill

Anthony Tran - Internet Marketing CoachingAbout our guest: Our guest for this podcast is Anthony Tran, a USAF veteran who successfully used the Post-9/11 GI Bill to complete 3 Master’s Degree programs. Talk about getting maximum value from a benefit! Anthony was able to use the Post-9/11 GI Bill to make him more marketable in the work force, and to help him switch from the automotive industry to the aerospace industry. Today, he is a successful entrepreneur who runs the website and podcast, Marketing Access Pass, where he provides Internet Marketing Training and Services to help other entrepreneurs successfully launch their own business.

About the Post-9/11 GI Bill

The Post-9/11 GI Bill is an improvement over previous versions of the GI Bill, which hadn’t kept pace with the rate of college tuition increases. It was created to help the large number of veterans returning from the Afghanistan and Iraqi campaigns. Many of them were facing unemployment and having a hard time transitioning back into the civilian sector. The Post-9/11 GI Bill goes a long way toward making it easier for veterans to achieve their degree without taking on debt.

Why the Post-9/11 GI Bill is Better than the MGIB

The Montgomery GI Bill is the GI Bill program most veterans are familiar with. This is the program servicemember scan buy into when they join the military. It pays the veteran a flat rate of $1,717 per month (see current MGIB rates). The veteran is then required to use those funds to pay for their tuition. Anything extra can be kept; but any shortfalls come out of the veteran’s pocket.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill, on the other hand, is free to veterans who qualify. Tuition is paid directly to the school at the rate of most expensive state college in-state tuition rate in the state where the school is located. Veterans also receive an annual book stipend and a monthly housing allowance equivalent to the E-5 with dependents BAH rate.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill is better 99% of the time. The only time the MGIB is better is when the veteran has a full-scholarship or tuition assistance through their employer and can pocket the entire MGIB (I have a friend who did this).

Using the Post-9/11 GI Bill

Using the Post-9/11 GI Bill is very easy. You need to qualify, obtain a letter of verification from the VA, then get accepted to your school. From there, the education institution will take care of all the paperwork.

Qualifying for the Post-9/11 GI Bill:

To qualify for thePost-9/11 GI Bill, veterans must serve at least 90 days after Sept 10, 2001. Veterans must serve 3 full years to qualify for the full benefit, unless they are discharged due to a service-connected disability. Here are the percentages for the partial benefit:

  • at least 90 days = 40%
  • at least 6 months, but less than 12 months = 50%
  • at least 12 months, but less than 18 months = 60%
  • at least 18 months, but less than 24 months = 70%
  • at least 24 months, but less than 30 months = 80%
  • at least 30 months, but less than 36 months = 90%
  • 36 months or more = 100%
  • Also 100% if discharged with service-connected disability and minimum of 30 days service.

Members of the National Guard and Reserves are also eligible to qualify for the Post-9/11 GI Bill, depending on how many days they served on active duty. Basically, all active duty service under Title 10 & 32 orders qualifies for the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Service that doesn’t qualify for the benefit, includes Inactive Duty Training (IDT) (Drill training), Annual Training, and active duty for medical care or evaluation.

Eligibility Verification Process:

To verify your eligibility, simply contact the VA. They will verify your service dates and your discharge rating and determine if you are eligible to receive the Post-9/11 GI Bill. You will then receive a benefits verification letter in the mail stating your eligibility for the Post-9/11 GI Bill. You can then take that letter to your school and they will handle the paperwork with the VA.

Attending School Under the Post-9/11 GI Bill

After you qualify for the Post-9/11 GI Bill and give your school the letter of verification, they take care of all the admin work. You don’t have to worry about the tuition, and you should start receiving BAH the next month. That means all you need to do is focus on completing your coursework. The good news is you don’t have a required minimum GPA to use the Post-9/11 GI Bill, other than passing your classes. Just focus on passing your classes, and everything should work out fine.

Use the Post-9/11 GI Bill to Improve Your Career Opportunities

In the podcast, Anthony discussed how he used the Post-9/11 GI Bill to help him move from the automotive industry into the aerospace industry. Even though there were some similarities between the two industries, he needed something else to make his resume more attractive when changing industries. Obtaining another Master’s Degree helped pave the way to a successful career change.

You can do the same thing. Education by itself isn’t a magic bullet that will get you hired immediately. But it does help make your total package more attractive. As a general rule of thumb, the more relevant education and training you have on your resume, the more attractive you will be to a hiring manager, or company.

Your military experience, coupled with certifications and formal education will go a long way toward getting you hired when you leave the military. I encourage you to start while you are still in the military, if possible. That can include using the Tuition Assistance Program or obtaining licenses or certifications. If you have already separated from the military, then I encourage you to look into using the Post-9/11 GI Bill. It’s an amazing benefit that will pay for most, if not all of your college degree.

New In-State Tuition Rule for GI Bill Recipients

Last month, Congress passed a new rule for GI Bill benefits, the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014. In effect, the rule requires states to offer the “in-state” tuition rate for all military veterans using the GI Bill, regardless of their actual state of residence. This will go into effect during the fall semester of 2015. The delay gives colleges and universities time to review their policies, and time for state legislatures time to amend applicable laws.

What the New GI Bill Rule Does

This new rule requires colleges and universities that accept the GI Bill to allow veterans using the GI Bill to pay only the in-state tuition rate while attending classes. There are currently 27 states that offer non-resident veterans the in-state tuition rates. So the primary benefit of this new rule will extend to students in the 23 states that don’t currently have similar provisions.

States will have until July 1, 2015 to offer non-resident veterans the lower in-state tuition rates if they want to continue to be eligible to participate in the Montgomery GI Bill or the Post-9/11 GI Bill programs. The GI Bill generally provides a lot of guaranteed cash flow to colleges and universities, so it is expected that virtually all states will comply with these new GI Bill rules.

Who is Affected

The primary beneficiaries of this new GI Bill rule are students who have recently left military service. This is because veterans often move to a new state after leaving the military, and it typically takes up to one year to establish residency for schooling purposes. Under the current system, many veterans are paying the higher, out-of-state tuition rates because they haven’t had time to establish in-state residency yet. Transfer students are also among those who are hit hard by the higher out-of-state rates for tuition and fees. The new rule allows these veterans to save a lot of money on tuition and fees while they wait to establish residency.

Dependents would also be eligible for in-state rates. The in-state resident rate rule will also be extended to non-resident dependents of veterans who use the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Learn more about transferring post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to your dependents.

More about the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014

The Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 also includes provisions that require the VA to provide veterans with access to timely health care, and it provides accountability measures to hold senior VA officials accountable for poor performance or misconduct. You can learn more about the the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014.

Coast Guard Tuition Assistance Benefits Cut (Updated for FY14)

The Department of Defense (DoD) is scrambling to find ways to cut budgets and save money. And each branch within the DoD is scrambling to do the same thing. The DoD as a whole is tasked with cutting over $50 billion a year from budgets due to the sequestration requirements. Within this larger goal, each branch is being asked to do its part.

Most branches have made cuts to operations, training, maintenance, and other mission goals. The Coast Guard is taking it a step further and reducing benefits to their troops by reducing their Tuition Assistance Benefits from 100% of tuition, to a 75% / 25% split between the Coast Guard and the student. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it is. The Coast Guard has reinstated the “Cost-sharing” Tuition Assistance program that was in place military-wide prior to 2002, when the military began offering a 100% Tuition Assistance program, up to a cap per semester hour, and an annual limit per student.

2014 Coast Guard Tuition Assistance Benefits Cut

The following rates are effective immediately, and are in place from October 1, 2013, through September 30, 2014. The rates after that will depend on the approved Coast Guard budget.

2014 Tuition Assistance Rates: Effective immediately, the Coast Guard will fund 75% of the tuition cost of members not to exceed $187.50 per credit hour, for active duty military members eligible for Tuition Assistance. The new annual cap for the Coast Guards share of TA is $2,250 (75% of $3,000). Coast Guard members are responsible for any tuition above the $187.50 per credit hour limit.

Coast Guard Tuition Assistance Eligibility

Tuition Assistance eligibility has undergone a few changes as well, similar to those recently enacted by the Air Force and Marines. TA is available to Coast Guardsmen who meet the following criteria:

  • Member must be on Active Duty or a Reservist on long-term orders greater than 180 days,
  • Members are limited to six credit hours per fiscal quarter. Credit hours are counted from course start dates.
  • Members must meet the additional following criteria: (1) Satisfactory progress toward completion of unit qualifications, (2) Satisfactory progress toward watch station qualifications, (3) Satisfactory proficiency of craft, and (4) Satisfactory conduct during the six months prior.

Eligible Study Programs: Tuition Assistance is only available for Coast Guardsmen seeking their first degree at the Associate and Bachelor levels. TA will not be granted for coursework at the same level or lower than a degree already possessed by the student. In other words, you can use TA to achieve an Associates or Bachelors Degree if you do not already have a degree at that level, but you can’t use TA to achieve a second degree at the same level.

Tuition Assistance is not available for those seeking a Masters Degree. Several other services have exceptions for these rules for certain mission essential training, but I couldn’t find any exceptions on the Coast Guard site. You will need to contact your Education Service Officer for more information about the possibility of exceptions.

Who is not eligible for Tuition Assistance benefits: According to the All Hands Blog, the official Coast Guard Workforce site, “Tuition assistance benefits will not be extended to civilian employees, Coast Guard Reservists in a drilling status and those active duty Coast Guardsmen pursuing a graduate degree or another degree at the same level which they already possess. Additionally, tuition assistance will not be available to active duty members who do not demonstrate satisfactory progress toward watch station qualifications, sufficient proficiency of craft and good conduct.”

Here is the new Coast Guard Tuition Assistance Policy.

Reasons for These Tuition Assistance Changes

The primary reason for the changes is the budget. Each branch of service has been tasked with doing more with less. This means reallocating dollars where leadership sees the greatest impact. Limiting the TA benefits to Associates and Bachelors level courses means that most of the Tuition Assistance benefits will go to junior and senior enlisted members, which is where the Coast Guard sees the greatest potential for long term impact.

According to the All Hands Blog, “Coast Guard leaders believe junior enlisted members have the most potential for growth, the longest potential time horizon and the least financial resources. The cost-share program helps these members be competitive for officer selection programs and contributes to their success as senior enlisted members by supporting them in obtaining an undergraduate degree.”

Alternative Funding Sources for Coast Guard Members

A reduction in Tuition Assistance benefits doesn’t mean Coast Guardsmen won’t be able to achieve their educational goals. It just means they need to be a little more creative when planning their course work. For example, Coast Guardsmen are still eligible to take CLEP and DANTES courses. These credit by examination courses are free and offer college credit upon passing. These exams played a large role when I achieved my degree while on active duty. Many institutions of higher education also offer credits for military service, potentially eliminating some required coursework en route to achieving a degree.

Additional funding sources for college credits include utilizing the Montgomery GI Bill, Post-9/11 GI Bill, scholarships, grants, and other tuition assistance programs.

US Marine Corps Tuition Assistance Benefits (Updated for FY 2014)

Education and training rate among the most cherished military benefits. The most well-known program, of course, is the GI Bill, which most military members in good standing qualify to receive after serving a short period on active duty. But the GI Bill is actually more valuable to most service members after they separate from the military. The good news is each service offers Tuition Assistance benefits to their active duty members. And the benefits are quite good—I used tuition assistance benefits to take classes on active duty while I was in the US Air Force. Between Tuition Assistance and testing out of classes, I was able to achieve my degree in less time than I could have if I would have taken classes at a traditional college.

The US Marine Corps offers similar Tuition Assistance (TA)  benefits as the Air Force (which I used when I was on active duty). However, there may be some slight differences on the administrative side. For example, the Air Force just made a few changes to their TA program, as Airmen are now required to receive permission from their supervisor to take classes. Let’s take a look at the current Tuition Assistance benefits for Marines.

US Marine Corps Tuition Assistance Benefits

US Marine Corps Tuition Assistance Benefits

USMC Tuition Assistance

The US Marine Corps Tuition Assistance Program, also known as the Marine Corps Lifelong Learning Program, has similar limits per semester or quarter hour of credit, and per fiscal year as the Tuition Assistance Programs in the other branches of service.

Here is the maximum amount paid for Marine Corps Tuition Assistance: 100% Tuition and Fees, not to exceed:

  • $250 per Semester Credit Hour, or
  • $166 per Quarter Credit Hour, and
  • $4500 per Fiscal Year

Does your Tuition exceed your Tuition Assistance Limits? You still have options. The numbers above only reflect the limits TA will pay. You can often find ways to make it work with the school, or by using partial GI Bill benefits as payment. For example, here are some ways you can make TA pay for all your tuition and fees:

  • Many schools will reduce tuition costs to match the maximum Tuition Assistance benefit for active duty military members. This is more common for colleges and universities in military communities, and usually only for undergrad work.
  • Many military members can qualify for military scholarships, scholarships through the school, or a scholarship through a military service organization.
  • Grants may be available to some service members, including the Pell Grant, which is offered by the federal government.
  • You can use the GI Bill to pay for any difference in tuition costs. Using the GI Bill in conjunction with Tuition Assistance usually only takes up a partial month of GI Bill benefits, as you are only using it to “Top Up” your TA to pay the difference.

Marine Corps Tuition Assistance Eligibility

Each military branch has different eligibility requirements. As noted above, the Air Force requires Airmen to receive their supervisor’s permission before signing up for TA benefits (along with a few other eligibility rules). The Marine Corps has similar requirements for Marines. Here is the latest list, from the US Marines’ website:

2. Additional TA eligibility criteria.  TA is discretionary.  An Education Service Officer (ESO) and education support personnel are available at all installations to assist Marines in developing personal and professional education plans and to make informed academic institution selections that support their education goals.  Command approval of TA is contingent upon the command’s anticipated mission requirements.  Marines shall meet appropriate standards and eligibility criteria, contained herein and Ref A and B, prior to authorization of TA:

(a)  First time active duty TA applicants shall have a minimum time in service of 24 months.
(b)  all Marines shall be eligible for promotion per Ref B.
(c)  prior to TA approval, first-time TA applicants shall complete the Marine Corps institute “leadership” (Course ID 8012b) and personal financial management (Course ID 3420f).
(d) TA shall be authorized for first-time TA applicants for only one course, unless documentation is provided that the Marine has at least an associate’s degree or at least sixty (60) academic credits and a minimum GPA of 2.5.
(e) TA shall not be authorized for classes that begin prior to the conclusion of a previously approved course.
(f)  TA funds for approved involuntary withdrawal waivers and failed courses will count toward the individual fiscal year ceilings.
(g)  TA shall be authorized for only one course in the succeeding academic term in the event that, (1) overall GPA falls below 2.5, (2) a “D” is received in any course during the previous term, or (3) a voluntary withdrawal occurs from any courses that occurred during the previous term.
(h)  first-time TA users with a general technical score of less than 100 shall be required to take the test of adult basic education and earn an examination score of at least 10.2.
(i) TA shall not be approved retroactively.  TA applications must be submitted and command approved prior to the requested course start date.
(j) course work with a start date between 15 and 30 September must be command approved by 12 September 2014.
(k) career and technical education certificate programs must be accredited by an accrediting body recognized by the department of education, be approved by the department of veteran’s administration, and have a signed DoD memorandum of understanding in order to receive tuition assistance.
(l) TA shall not be authorized for duplicate degrees (e.g., second associate degree) or double majors.
(m) open issues in Marine TA accounts, including incomplete courses, reimbursement issues, and waivers, must be resolved and posted to the student record prior to approval of future ta requests.
(n) TA cannot be utilized for fees related to certifications, license exams, or credentials.
(o)  in addition to the requirements for officers in Reference A, reserve component officers on active duty orders/mobilization must have an end of active duty status (EAS) date of two years beyond the completion date of the requested class in order to be approved for TA.
(p)  enlisted Marines must have an EAS of 60 days beyond the completion date of the course in order to be approved for TA.
(q) TA shall not be authorized for non-credit courses, training programs or programs under continuing education or workforce development.  Marines are not eligible to utilize TA for MOS required training, and Marines shall not be approved for TA while in a training status.
(r)  Marines attending vocational/technical certificate programs with more than one class or module will only be approved TA for two classes or modules at a time.

3.  TA funding management.  As of 1 October 2013, the Marine Corps TA funding budget will be divided into fiscal quarters.  Once quarterly funds are exhausted, TA approvals will be deferred until the following quarter.   When TA funds are available, approvals will be contingent upon the Marine meeting all eligibility requirements and will be limited to classes that begin during that quarter.  For example, a class that begins on 15 January 2014 will not be approved for TA until 1 January 2014 and will be funded with available FY14 second quarter funds.  TA requests can only be submitted within 30 days of the start date of the class.

Thoughts on Marine Corps TA Eligibility and Restrictions

The Marine Corps has some rigid restrictions on Tuition Assistance eligibility, but it’s important to remember why TA is there in the first place. Yes, it’s a great benefit for active duty Marines, and it’s an excellent recruiting tool. But at the end of the day, the main reason is to make the Marines a better fighting force. Education is a great way to enhance the total education of the Corps, and in doing so, improve total force capability. Most of the restrictions that are in place are there to ensure the limited Tuition assistance dollars go where the Marine Corps can best see the benefits of their investments in their troops. (Remember, it wasn’t long ago when the Sequestration forced most military branches to pause TA benefits).

The limited funds are why Marines need 24 months time in service before they are eligible to participate in the Tuition Assistance program. Similarly, the Marine Corps wants to makes sure their Marines are focused on upgrade training, which explains why Marines aren’t eligible for TA when they are currently in military training (you will find this in each branch). Finally, The Marines and other services limit Tuition Assistance benefits to one of each type of degree, unless it meets mission requirements.

Overall, there are some limitations to the program, but none that are difficult to achieve if you are in good standing, and none that are unreasonable. If you are in the Marines, I encourage you too look into this benefit. This is one of the best deals going.

Air Force Tuition Assistance Benefits (Updated for FY 2014)

The military is well-known for offering its troops the opportunity to go to school. Education is often among the top reasons many people choose to enlist in the military. Education benefits were certainly one of the reason I chose to enlist in the Air Force, and I used the Tuition Assistance program to get my degree while on active duty. I also tested out of many classes en route to achieving my degree.

Being able to achieve my Bachelor’s Degree while serving on active duty was huge for me, because it gave me options when my enlistment was up. I had the choice to reenlist, try to go for Officer Training School (OTS), or I could separate from active duty, knowing that I had a four-year degree and real world experience. Each person’s situation is unique, but at that point in my life, I decided to separate from the military so I could start my life in the civilian world.

Because I used Tuition Assistance benefits to obtain my degree, I still have the Post 9/11 G Bill if I want to go back to school to get a different degree, or if I want to go for a Master’s Degree. In other words, Tuition Assistance benefits were extremely valuable to me because they saved me a lot of time and money, and helped me hit the ground running after I separated from active duty.

If you are in the US Air Force, or are thinking about joining, then I strongly encourage you to familiarize yourself with the Air Force Tuition Assistance Benefits. You can do a lot to advance your career by obtaining your Community College of the Air Force (CCAF) degree, build obtain a Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree, apply to OTS, or simply take classes you enjoy. The best part is that you can take these classes while you are in the service to get ahead of the curve when you separate, whether that is after your first term, or if you make the Air Force a career.

Air Force Tuition Assistance Benefits

Here are the current Air Force Tuition Assistance benefits:

The maximum amount paid for Tuition Assistance: 100% Tuition and Fees, not to exceed:

  • $250 per Semester Credit Hour, or
  • $166 per Quarter Credit Hour, and
  • $4500 per Fiscal Year

What if your tuition costs more than the limit? $250 a semester hour is enough for most community colleges and state schools. Don’t worry too much if your chosen school charges more per semester hour. Many other universities, particularly those near military installations, will reduce the tuition costs for active duty military members to fall in line with current Tuition Assistance rates. You may also be able to qualify for for grants such as the Pell Grant, or you may be able to qualify for military scholarships through the school, or through other organizations. Finally, you can use your GI Bill to cover any difference in the cost of tuition so you don’t have to spend anything out of pocket. If you choose not to use your GI Bill, you can pay out of pocket. The good news is that using your GI Bill only counts toward a prorated portion of your monthly benefit if you are only using it to top-up your Tuition Assistance.

Applying for Tuition Assistance Benefits

You will need to visit your Education Center or apply online through the Air Force Virtual Education Center in the Air Force Portal.There are certain instances when you may not be able to apply for TA benefits online. These include: missing personal data in your education record, not having a degree plan on record, requesting Tuition Assistance for courses that have already started or are more than 30 days in the future, missing grades for courses you completed over 60 days ago, or requesting Tuition Assistance for course work in a degree plan lower than your highest awarded degree (see next section).

Limitations on usage. Tuition Assistance is designed to help Airmen achieve certain degrees and education levels and at the base level, it is designed to benefit the Air Force. Because of this, you can only use Tuition Assistance benefits to achieve a degree higher than your current degree. For example, you cannot use the Tuition Assistance program to achieve a second Associate’s, Bachelor’s, or Master’s degree.

There are some exceptions to this rule. You can always use Tuition Assistance to achieve another CCAF degree, regardless of your current degree level. You can also use Tuition Assistance to achieve an Associate’s Degree from a civilian college if you already have your CCAF, provided your civilian Associate’s is in a different subject and you do not already have an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree. Finally, you may be eligible to obtain a second Master’s Degree if it is on an approved list of critical education programs. Some examples of critical education programs include certain graduate foreign language/affairs programs and cyber law master’s degrees.

Tuition Assistance is also limited to Master’s Degree level courses. There are other ways to get the Air Force to pay for post-graduate course or doctoral degrees, but these are generally specialized programs and highly competitive. You will need to contact your education office for a list of current programs for this level of education. Keep in mind, you may incur a service commitment for this type of training.

Limitations on participation. Keep in mind, there may be some exceptions to being able to use Tuition Assistance Benefits. These benefits are generally open to all active duty members, but your personal or professional circumstances may temporarily prevent you from being able to use the benefits. For example, you generally cannot use Tuition Assistance benefits while you are in a formal training environment such as Basic Military Training, OTS, tech school, Professional Military Education (PME), Squadron Officer School, etc.

Changes to Air Force Tuition Assistance Benefits

It’s no secret that our government is facing budget cuts, which have extended to the Department of Defense (DoD), and each of the respective military branches. In the last year, we have seen the cancellation of many military benefits programs due to sequestration and various budget cuts. Tuition Assistance was one of the more popular programs that was temporarily suspended, then later reinstated. The DoD brought back tuition assistance for each branch of service, but the Air Force made a couple changes that may affect the ability of some Airmen to take classes. Here are the main changes, starting in FY14 (source for new rules: AF.mil):

Supervisor approval is required to receive Tuition Assistance Benefits. Supervisors may decline permission for any of the following reasons:

  • The Airmen is in any level of upgrade training,
  • The Airman will be TDY or will be PCSing during the academic term,
  • The Airman is enrolled in PME,
  • or for any other factors the supervisor determines would impede the Airman’s ability to complete the course.

Airmen who fail to meet Air Force standards may also be ineligible to use Tuition Assistance benefits. Some examples include:

  • Airmen who have unfavorable information files,
  • Airmen who failed/overdue physical fitness testing,and
  • Airmen who received referral performance reports or are on a control roster will automatically be denied.

The rules on this page pertain to Active Duty Airmen, or activated Guard and Reserve members. Members of the traditional Guard and Reserves have different Tuition Assistance benefits rules and eligibility which will be covered in a different article.

How to Pay for School When You Run out of GI Bill Benefits

The GI Bill is one of the most valuable benefits veterans have available to them when the separate from the military. The GI Bill can go a long way toward helping veterans earn their degree, and with that, the opportunity to increase your income potential. But the GI Bill doesn’t always offer enough benefits to complete a college degree. The high cost of college can be a contributing factor. But that isn’t the only reason, especially for veterans who are eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which covers tuition up to the cost of the most expensive state school. The biggest limitation with the GI Bill is the amount of benefits, which are capped at 36 months. It is possible to complete a college degree before you run out of GI Bill benefits, but sometimes it can be incredibly difficult, especially for those working on more advanced degrees.

how to pay for school when you run out of gi bill benefitsBefore we start: there are two primary versions of the GI Bill available to active duty veterans and some Guard/Reserve members: the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) and the Post-9/11 GI Bill, or GI Bill 2.0. (Some Guard and Reserve members are eligible for these programs based on their service record, while other Guard and Reserve members may be eligible for different GI Bill programs). It’s important to note the difference in these benefits to understand how to use them to your advantage.

The Montgomery GI Bill offers veterans a flat monthly stipend that is paid directly to them each month based on the number of hours of school they are attending. That is not the case for veterans using the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The payment for classes goes directly to the  university, with a housing and book stipend going to the student. This difference is important when paying for and completing your degree.

Tips to Complete Your Degree with the GI Bill

The goal, of course, is to complete your degree while you still have GI Bill benefits available. Doing so will minimize your out of pocket expenses and help you get back into the work force in a minimal amount of time. Completing your degree within the benefits period requires a plan and hard work. But it can be accomplished. Here are some tips:

Load up on classes each term. The more classes you take each term, the more quickly you will complete your degree. The downside on loading up on classes with the MGIB is that the monthly benefit is capped for full-time students. Students are required to pay for their classes out of their own pockets, and if their classes are more expensive than their MGIB benefits, they are forced to pay on their own. The Post-9/11 GI Bill works differently because payments are sent directly to the school. In this case, students can load up on classes and the courses will be paid for with the Post-9/11 GI Bill. 12 hours is considered a full time course load at most universities. Students can complete their degree more quickly if they take 15, or even 18 hours per term. This requires more work and balance, but it can save students a lot of time and money in the long run.

Use both the MGIB and Post-9/11. Many veterans bought into the Montgomery GI Bill when they were in the military. If you are also eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill based on your service dates, you can use this to your advantage. You can use all of your MGIB benefits, then apply to transfer to the Post-9/11 GI Bill. You won’t be able to use all 36 months of the MGIB, then all 36 months of the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Instead, you can use the entire MGIB, then get up to one year of the Post-9/11 GI Bill. In a way, it’s a loophole, but it’s one that you can use to your advantage.

Test out of classes. Many colleges give students credit for life experience, military experience, or for testing out of courses. I highly recommend researching these options and taking advantage of them whenever possible. I tested out of a year of school when I completed my degree. It saved me a ton of time and money and enabled me to complete my degree while on active duty. Not all schools accept these tests or credits, so be sure to plan your path with a guidance counselor before spending too much time testing out of classes.

Use tuition assistance. The more classes you take while on active duty, the fewer classes you have to take after you separate from the military. If you have the ability, try to take some classes while you are still serving. Each branch of the service offers their troops a tuition assistance program. Start with the basic courses such as English Comp, history, economics, and other courses which are a part of almost every degree plan. It’s possible that not all classes will be transferable, but the odds of them being transferable are much higher if you complete at least an Associate’s Degree. These will reduce the time you need to complete your degree, and reduce your reliance upon the GI Bill.

Paying for College When You Run Out of GI Bill Benefits

All of the above tips are nice, but they aren’t always realistic for every student. Difficulty of courses, scheduling, family requirements, and other factors may make it difficult to load up on classes each term. Some colleges don’t accept many transfer courses or won’t allow you to test out of courses, and many military members aren’t able to take classes while on active duty. To top it off, many people change their degree program a year or more into school. Whatever the reason, there are some options to pay for your school when you run out of GI Bill benefits. But it will take a little creativity.

Understand how long your benefits are good for. GI Bill benefits are typically good for 36 months worth of classes. The MGIB is good for 10 years after separating from the military, and the Post-9/11 GI Bill doesn’t expire until you have been out of the service for 15 years. If you are running upon your time limit for the MGIB, you may be able to transfer your benefits to the Post-9/11 GI Bill and extend the amount of time you have to use your education benefits.

Seek out other scholarships, financial aid, and veterans educational benefits. The first step is to see if you are eligible for any scholarships or financial aid, including grants such as the Pell Grant. The next option is to look at state benefits. Many states offer education benefits for veterans. For example, Texas has the Hazelwood Act which extends educational benefits at state colleges to veterans who enlisted in the state of Texas. Illinois, and several other states have similar programs.

Get a MGIB Refund. The Montgomery GI Bill requires eligible veterans to buy into the program at a cost of $1,200. The Post-9/11 GI Bill doesn’t have a buy-in requirement. If you are eligible for the program, you can use the benefits without paying anything into the program. If you use your entire Post-9/11 GI Bill, you can apply for a refund for the MGIB, which will be paid to you in a prorated amount based on the amount of MGIB benefits you used. For example, if you bought into the MGIB, didn’t use any of it, then you used your entire Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, you would receive the full $1,200 refund. To qualify, you must use your entire Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. More info about GI Bill refunds.

Guard and Reserve educational benefits may be worth researching. Another option would be to look into serving an additional term in the Guard or Reserve, which might help pay for college. Some states offer free state college courses when you serve in the National Guard or Air National Guard. Some states also only require a minimal commitment, depending on their needs, your career field and rank, and other factors.

Look into placement programs or government reimbursements. Troops to Teachers is a program that will help military veterans earn a teaching degree in exchange for agreeing to teach classes in a low income area for a certain period of time. There are also government grants and opportunities that will help pay students for their college courses. In return, you usually need to commit to working for a set time period.

Other tips to pay for school. You may be able to defray college expenses by working as a Resident Advisor. Many schools provide free room and board for RAs. Work study programs are another way you can earn money while attending school.

Student loans. The last option that I can think of is to take out student loans. I know most people want to avoid student loans, and that is recommended whenever possible but sometimes that is the best option you may have available to you.

It takes creativity, but you can pay for college when you run out of GI Bill benefits. Do you have any other tips?

Use the GI Bill for Licenses and Certifications

If you recently served and left the military you are entitled to education benefits under two methods: the Montgomery GI Bill and the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The Post-9/11 Bill provides education and housing assistance for specific situations as long as you had 90 days of aggregate service (or 30 days if you were discharged for a service-related disability) and received an honorable discharge. The Montgomery GI Bill has been around longer and offers slightly different benefits.

Use your GI Bill for Licenses and CertificationsHopefully you already knew about the GI Bill and have considered using it to go back to college. The Post-9/11 Bill is quite generous: paying for full tuition and fees for in-state students at public schools. Even students going to private schools may receive higher tuition reimbursement. Plus you get a stipend for books and supplies and a housing allowance.

But what if college isn’t in your plans? What if you would rather build on some of the skills you picked up in the military and take your life down a career trade path?

Thankfully the GI Bill offers you the ability to get licenses and certifications through the program as well. You don’t have to just go to a four-year university now.

How to Use the GI Bill to Get Licenses and Certifications

Take time to research all of your options. Making the wrong choice can cost you a ton of money in benefits lost.

Decide Which GI Bill You Want to Use

First, you must decide which GI Bill you are going to use. This is a critical choice that cannot be changed so spend a lot of time researching your options and which direction you want to go. If you elect for the Post-9/11 GI Bill and change your mind, you won’t be able to switch to the Montgomery GI Bill.

Montgomery GI Bill Licensing and Certification Benefit

For certifications and licensing the Montgomery GI Bill may be a better choice. The bill pays for both accredited training courses and the actual certification test costs. Another perk: you can get reimbursed even if you do not pass the test and need to re-test as long as you have enough benefit remaining. You can be reimbursed up to $2,000 per certification test up to the cost of the test.

Post-9/11 GI Bill Licensing and Certification Benefit

The key difference with the Post-9/11 GI Bill is accredited training costs are no longer covered. Your test is also only covered if you pass the test. Essentially the Montgomery bill will pay for you to go to training classes in preparation for the test and even reimburse the cost of the test if you fail. The Post-9/11 bill requires better performance and for you to take training on yourself. You don’t get reimbursed if you don’t pass the test. Like the Montgomery GI Bill, this bill will reimburse up to $2,000 per certification test up to the cost of the test.

Avoid Scams and Work Only with VA-Approved Companies

A sad fact in our country is that there is a lot of money to be unethically made my ripping off veterans. You might think it would be difficult to put yourself into a financial bind since the government is paying for everything, but you might end up signing papers that say if the government doesn’t pay then you will.

Avoid all that mess by only working with firms and certifications approved by the Veterans Administration. The VA has a search engine to help you find if your target certification is on the list to be reimbursed. You can also use our GI Bill search wizard to help you find a qualified program.

Use Your Benefits Before They Expire

You are allowed to use your benefits for 15 years after your release from active duty. If you don’t need to use them right now, don’t. But it doesn’t hurt to use them at some point in the future to better your career situation and skill set.

Bill Provides College Credit for Military Service at Oklahoma State Schools

The state of Oklahoma recently passed a law which will allow state colleges to more easily provide academic credit to military veterans who have received an Honorable Discharge within the last three years. Oklahoma state officials passed Senate Bill 1863, The Post-Military Service Occupation, Education and Credentialing Act, sponsored by Sen. Steve Russell, R-Oklahoma City, a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel, and Rep. Ann Coody, R-Lawton.

Slated to go into affect on November 1, 2012, this bill gives colleges the ability to provide academic credit for military service for those who separated within the last three years. The credit is good for applicable education, training, and experience received through military duty, as long a it pertains to the veteran’s area of study.

The skills earned by military veterans can also be applied by state authorities and governing boards toward professional licenses and certifications when the veteran’s skills are applicable toward the license or certificate. This should expedite the process toward professional licensing and certification for many Oklahoma veterans.

This law also provides assistance to spouses of active duty servicemembers by requiring agencies, boards, and commissions to develop procedures to decrease the time it takes for military spouse applicants to receive professional licenses and certifications.

This bill will help both returning veterans, and spouses of active duty military members find work. Oklahoma’s Secretary of Veterans Affairs Rita Aragon, of Edmond, praised the bill as a way to help support veterans returning from active duty overseas.

“Our military service men and women deserve our support in honor of their service to our nation,” Aragon said. “This program will allow veterans to transform their unique military skills and training into academic credit and real-world certification.”

Thoughts on this new bill: Many colleges and universities offer some academic credits for military service, but many of them limit it to an elective credit for PT (physical training), or another small elective credit. This new bill in Oklahoma, on the other hand, gives academic credit which will help veterans get closer to their degree of choice, provided their military experience is in their academic field.

This is a great opportunity for veterans to gain academic credits and reduce the amount of time it takes to obtain an Associate’s Degree, Bachelor’s Degree, or professional certification. The new GI Bill is a great benefit, and even though it covers virtually all in-state educational expenses, it doesn’t do anything to reduce the amount of time it takes to get the required degree and enter the job force.

Note: The University of Oklahoma (OU) already provides a variety of veterans academic credit for their military service, including vets who served decades ago. You can find a list of the credits they offer for military personnel and veterans.

Private Military Scholarships

College is expensive. Despite excellent benefits provided by GI Bill 2.0, the cost of attending a top-tier university can shoulder a veteran with considerable debt. But that doesn’t mean you should shelve your plans of attending a university. The citizenry of the United States, private John and Jane Q. Publics’, have come to the rescue. It’s a tradition that dates back to the late 19thcentury – the American public coming to together in order to provide academic support for active-duty and military veterans. Below you’ll find several scholarships that cater specifically to Active-Duty military members and veterans.

Where You Can Find Private Military Scholarships

AMVETS ScholarshipAMVETS. Formed by World War II veterans, American Veterans (AMVETS) – who now hold a congressional charter offer a relatively tasty scholarship. Aimed at veterans who have exhausted government aid and find themselves in financial hardship, the AMVETS scholarships range up to $1,000 per year. Other eligible scholarship applicants include veterans and active duty military members, their children or grandchildren, and the child or grandchild of a deceased veteran. It must be used for undergraduate, graduate, or certificate studies and is awarded for a maximum of fours years.

Pat Tillman Foundation ScholarshipPat Tillman Foundation. Continuing on, the Pat Tillman Foundation offers one of the more dynamic scholarships around. The namesake of NFL player-turned Army Ranger – Patrick Daniel Tillman, the foundation was established following his death in Afghanistan due to friendly fire in 2004. As per their website, the Tillman Military Scholars program “supports our nation’s active and veteran service member and their spouses by removing financial barriers to completing a degree program of choice. Investing nearly $2.2 million in scholastic support, the foundation also covers the cost of study-related fees, including books, housing and even child-care. Beyond question, the Tillman Foundation is an excellent resource for veterans in need. Learn more about eligibility and criteria.

1st Marine Division Association Scholarship1st Marine Division Association. For United States Marines rated by the Veterans Administration as 100% disabled, the 1st Marine Division Association offers scholarships towards completion of a bachelor’s degree. The university of choice must be an accredited four-year college and the maximum award falls in at $1,500. Learn more about the scholarship requirements.

Navy Marine Corps Relief Society ScholarshipNavy and Marine Corps Relief Society. Yet another Marine Corps/Navy-related assistance program can be found at Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society. Providing interest-free loans and grants, the society not only provides for educational support, but also helps with “emergency needs such as: emergency transport; funeral expenses; medical/dental bills; food/rent; disaster relief; child care; vehicle repair; [and] unforeseen family emergencies.”

Under the same umbrella organization, the Society of Sponsors of the United States Navy Centennial Scholarship Program offers significant monetary benefits to “combat wounded or injured veterans who have chosen to serve their country again by entering the teaching profession.” Basic requirements include combat service in either the Navy/Marine Corps during Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, or Operation New Dawn. A sizable $3,000 per academic year is awarded to select full-time students attending an accredited university. Learn more about the NMCRS education programs, including the United States Navy Centennial Scholarship Program.

Dr. Aurelio M. Caccomo Family Foundation Memorial Scholarship. Finally, we have the Dr. Aurelio M. Caccomo Family Foundation Memorial Scholarship. Awarding “two, $3,000 scholarships per year to veterans who want to improve their job skills by returning to school,” the Caccomo Family Foundation should be of particular interest to veterans who have run through their traditional GI Bill benefits. All applicants must demonstrate financial need and posses a high school diploma or GED. It would behoove would-be applicants to establish expiration of “government sources of educational funding,” thus illustrating the scholarship’s caveat of “financial need.” Learn more about the Dr. Aurelio M. Caccomo scholarship.

Take Advantage of Military Scholarships

Notwithstanding government allotted funds, veterans may find themselves in need of educational support due to our sagging economy. Sadly, the rising costs of college may dissuade active-duty service members and veterans from attending college – but it shouldn’t. Even if the rebooted GI Bill no longer applies to the aforementioned individuals, private citizens and organizations are there to help. Take full advantage of that assistance – you certainly earned it!