How to Use Your GI Bill®️ for Graduate School
As World War II raged, U.S. leaders grew concerned that the nearly 16 million Americans serving in the armed forces would be unemployed when returned at the war’s end. Fearing an economic calamity akin to the Great Depression—and recognizing the nation’s missteps in helping returning World War I veterans—leaders convened with experts to address the issue, leading to the introduction of the GI Bill®️. Signed into law two weeks after the D-Day invasion in 1944, the law provided federal aid for veterans to pursue education and jobs, buy homes, and reacclimate to civilian life.
The GI Bill®️ has gone through multiple iterations in its more than 75-year history. A hallmark of each version is a commitment to providing veterans with a pathway to higher education. By taking advantage of its many benefits, veterans can use the GI Bill®️ for graduate school. Norwich University, the nation’s oldest private military college and the birthplace of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), is uniquely positioned to guide veterans who want to use the GI Bill®️ to pursue an education.
What Is the GI Bill®️?
Before World War II, only about one-third of Americans finished high school. Many believed that college was a province of the rich and elite, inaccessible to the average person. The GI Bill®️ helped returning service members clear many of the hurdles to higher education through benefits such as free tuition and money for housing and school supplies. From 1940 to 1950, the number of Americans with degrees doubled, and over the next 50 years, those with advanced degrees jumped by almost 20%.
Today’s veterans continue to reap the benefits of the GI Bill®️ to pursue opportunities in higher education. Over the past decade, since the implementation of the Post-9/11 GI Bill®️—the most-used version of the GI Bill®️—the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has provided more than $12 billion in educational aid to nearly 800,000 veterans and their families. The Post-9/11 GI Bill®️ allows veterans to transfer benefits to their spouses or children.
By providing easier access to education, the GI Bill®️ opened new career opportunities for millions of veterans. Today, veterans can take advantage of work-study programs, on-the-job training, or apprenticeships through the GI Bill®️ to bolster their career prospects. Several Fortune 500 companies have participated in these programs including Merck & Co., Procter & Gamble Co., and Lockheed Martin Corp. Because of its robust educational and training benefits, along with measures in the original bill that made homeownership easier, the GI Bill®️ is often credited with expanding the middle class.
Common Questions About Using the GI Bill®️
The GI Bill®️ offers a host of educational and training benefits for service members, whether they’re using the GI Bill®️ for graduate school or to pursue other opportunities. Regardless, the process for using GI Bill®️ benefits runs through the VA.
How Do I Apply for the GI Bill®️?
After determining eligibility, which varies depending on the version of the GI Bill®️, veterans can apply for benefits through the VA website, by mail, or at a VA regional office. Enrollment requires a valid Social Security number, education and military history, and information about the attending school or training facility.
How Long Does It Take to Receive Benefits Once I File?
It typically takes about 30 days for the VA to process new education claims and approximately a week for re-enrollment. Applicants typically receive a payment within two weeks of verifying enrollment at the end of the month or one week if enrolled in direct deposit.
Does My GI Bill®️ Cover the Cost of the Program?
The qualifying benefit amount depends on the school, length of active-duty service, and the number of credits or training hours. If eligible for the maximum benefit, the Post-9/11 GI Bill®️ can pay full resident tuition at an in-state public school. If attending a private or foreign institution, benefits currently cover up to $25,162.14 per academic year.
Using the GI Bill®️ for Graduate School
While the GI Bill®️ is extremely valuable for veterans pursuing graduate degrees, the VA’s criteria for determining an individual’s benefit amount for graduate school differs from an undergraduate program. For most undergraduate degrees, students are considered full time when taking 12 or more course hours of courses. This is known as training time. For a graduate program, the school decides how to rate each hour and the VA pays benefits accordingly. Therefore, if a school considers a two-hour course full time, the VA pays the full-time rate. Students must determine how an institution weighs course hours before enrolling to understand the administration of benefits.
Prospective students also must consider their entitlement percentage when exploring graduate programs. A feature of the Post-9/11 GI Bill®️, entitlement percentage describes the amount of tuition and fees the GI Bill®️ pays based on the number of months a student has served on active duty since September 10, 2001. For example, three months of active service qualifies a beneficiary for 50% of the maximum amount, according to the VA. Three years of active service qualifies a beneficiary for 100%.
The GI Bill®️ provides additional assistance to cover various educational expenses including housing, books, and other school supplies. The Post-9/11 GI Bill®️ pays a monthly housing allowance based on the school location. The current average for the stipend is $1,833 per month, though it can reach nearly $3,000, while students who take online courses can receive a monthly stipend of $916.50. Students can also receive an annual stipend of up to $1,000 a year for books and school supplies.
Other GI Bill®️ Benefits for Pursuing an Advanced Education
In addition to money for tuition, housing, and supplies, several programs under the Post-9/11 GI Bill®️ provide further assistance for military veterans pursuing graduate degrees. They include the following:
Yellow Ribbon Program
The Yellow Ribbon Program can help students pay for more expensive tuition at private or out-of-state institutions, typically exceeding the maximum benefit of the GI Bill®️. Schools that voluntarily participate in the program contribute a certain amount toward extra tuition and fees that are matched by the VA. Norwich University is among the many schools that participate in the program, which can be especially helpful for students using their GI Bill®️ for graduate school.
Tuition Assistance Top-Up
The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) provides financial aid for education to active-duty service members through its Tuition Assistance program. However, that aid doesn’t always cover the full cost of a college course. The VA’s Tuition Assistance Top-Up program helps service members by covering the difference between the total cost and the amount provided by the DOD.
Further Benefits of the GI Bill®️
The GI Bill®️ offers many other perks and programs designed to help veterans further their education and job training. If a course is particularly challenging, students can receive money to cover the cost of a tutor, up to $100 per month and $1,200 annually. The VA’s work-study program offers students the opportunity to earn money at a part-time job while enrolled in school, as long as the job is related to the VA in some way. Additionally, the VA allows veterans to use their GI Bill®️ benefits to pay for housing and supplies while learning a trade or skill through on-the-job training or apprenticeships. It also offers entrepreneurship training through the Small Business Administration.
Earn a Graduate Degree Using the GI Bill®️
For more than 75 years, the GI Bill®️ has supported millions of service members in pursuing higher education. In the past decade, the VA helped hundreds of thousands of U.S. veterans and their families by providing aid for tuition, housing, and school supplies, along with a bevy of other benefits.
As the nation’s oldest private military college and with a dedicated Veterans Affairs team, Norwich University has a long history of helping members of the military take advantage of their GI Bill®️ benefits. Veterans interested in pursuing graduate degrees can explore the many programs that Norwich University offers to help them achieve their career goals.
GI Bill®️ is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government website at http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill.
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G.I. Bill®️, History.com
How the G.I. Bill®️ Changed America, The Saturday Evening Post
75 Years of the GI Bill®️: How Transformative It’s Been, U.S. Department of Defense
Using Your GI Bill®️ for Apprenticeship and OJT Training, Military.com
How to Apply for the GI Bill®️ and Related Benefits, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Using Your GI Bill®️ for Graduate School, Military.com
Post-9/11 GI Bill®️ (Chapter 33), U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Yellow Ribbon Program, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Tuition Assistance Top-Up, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Tutorial Assistance, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Work Study, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Veterans Affairs Team, Norwich University