What is the GI Bill Yellow Ribbon Program?

The Post 9-11 GI Bill covers tuition up to highest in-state undergraduate tuition level. The Yellow Ribbon Program covers the difference at participating schools.
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GI Bill Yellow Ribbon program

If you are a veteran or service member who qualifies for full benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, you may be eligible for the Yellow Ribbon Program to help you pay for tuition and fees. 

The Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008 established the Yellow Ribbon GI Education Enhancement Program.

Under the Yellow Ribbon program, degree-granting universities and colleges in the United States split tuition expenses with the Department of Veterans Affairs when tuition exceeds the highest in-state public undergraduate tuition. 

Yellow Ribbon Program for GI Bill

The Yellow Ribbon Program allows students to attend the colleges or universities of their dreams even if the costs exceed GI Bill coverage.

To take advantage of this opportunity, make sure you qualify for the Yellow Ribbon Program benefits and understand what it covers.

What Does the GI Bill Do?

Following the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and subsequent military action, Congress passed the Post-9/11 GI Bill in June 2008.

The bill, like the GI Bill issued after WWII, helps veterans pay their way through college.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill funds a full four-year degree at a public in-state college or university, provided the service member, including reservists and Guardsmen, served three years as an active-duty service member since Sept. 11, 2001.

Veterans who served less time can still receive benefits if they served at least 90 days on active duty. Service members may also transfer their educational benefits to their spouses or children in some cases.

What Do Eligible Recipients of the Yellow Ribbon Program Receive?

Not all veterans wish to attend an in-state or public university, as the GI Bill previously stipulated. The Yellow Ribbon program extends the offerings of the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

Those eligible for the Yellow Ribbon program will receive funding to cover the difference between the school’s tuition and fees and undergraduate tuition and fees at the most expensive public in-state school.

This allows students to attend private institutions, graduate schools or out-of-state schools.Schools participating in the Yellow Ribbon Program choose how much they will contribute per eligible recipient. The VA matches the amount and makes the payments to the institutions on behalf of each recipient.

Who Benefits from the Yellow Ribbon Program?

To qualify for the Yellow Ribbon program, you must qualify for the Post-9/11 GI Bill at the 100% level. According to the VA, you must also be:

  • A veteran who was honorably discharged after serving on active duty for at least 36 months after Sept. 10, 2001
  • A purple Heart recipient with an honorable discharge on or after Sept. 11, 2001
  • A veteran who served for at least 30 continuous days on or after Sept. 11, 2001, and received a discharge for a service-connected disability.
  • An active-duty service member who served at least 36 months on active duty
  • A spouse using the transferred benefits of active-duty service members using who served at least 36 months on active duty
  • A dependent child using the transferred benefits from a veteran
  • A Fry scholar

Additionally, the college or university you are attending must participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program.

What Are Participating Colleges and Universities Required to Do?

Participating colleges and universities in the Yellow Ribbon program must provide funds to qualified applicants on a first-come, first-served basis. The schools must also provide funds in subsequent years for students who maintain satisfactory performance and attendance requirements.

The schools must provide these funds in the form of a scholarship or grant.

The school must state the dollar value of the grant and the maximum number of recipients per academic year.

The VA provides an interactive map of participating colleges and universities. Using this tool, you may review each school’s specific criteria, including:

  • Eligible degree levels
  • Maximum number of students who can receive Yellow Ribbon benefits 
  • How much will the school contribute per year towards individual degrees

How Do I Apply for the Yellow Ribbon Program?

Each participating educational institution can establish its own application procedures for students. Once the school approves your participation in the Yellow Ribbon program, it must confirm your enrollment to the VA.


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About Ryan Guina

Ryan Guina is The Military Wallet's founder. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over six years on active duty in the USAF and is a current member of the Illinois Air National Guard.

Ryan started The Military Wallet in 2007 after separating from active duty military service and has been writing about financial, small business, and military benefits topics since then. He also writes about personal finance and investing at Cash Money Life.

Ryan uses Personal Capital to track and manage his finances. Personal Capital is a free software program that allows him to track his net worth, balance his investment portfolio, track his income and expenses, and much more. You can open a free Personal Capital account here.

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