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Do You Think It Is Wise to Attend a Community College First and Then a University?

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: We are looking for a counselor to help us determine the best course for our 18-year old senior. He had problems getting his new school (moved in his senior year) to accept his classes, so he could not apply to colleges in the fall or spring. He is stuck with schools that allow open enrollment or perhaps going to a community college with us paying and then transferring to a university and using the GI Bill. We don’t understand how the GI Bill and the Yellow Ribbon work together. He’d like to go to Syracuse which is a Yellow Ribbon school. I don’t understand how the GI Bill works with the YR. And do you think it is wise to go to a Community College first then use the GI Bill when he transfers to a university?

A: First, the Yellow Ribbon Program benefits students in any of these three situations:
- paying out state tuition
- attending graduate school.
-attending a private school.

What happens is if your son would have a difference in tuition left after the Post 9/11 GI Bill paid what it could (which he would not have a difference for at a community college unless he is paying out state tuition), then his school would pay up to 50% of the difference and the VA would pay an equal amount. The school could also have in their agreement to pay a lesser percentage than 50%. In that case, he may have a small amount left to pay.

Second his sponsor, whether that is you or your husband, most likely had 36 months of benefits that could have been transferred to him. If all were transferred to him, he has enough for four 9-month academic years.

So with that said, whether he goes to a community college for a couple of years and you pay for it, depends on his education goal. If he plans on getting an advanced degree after his bachelor’s degree, then it makes sense to pay for a community college, because graduate school is so much more expensive than community college undergraduate tuition; he could “save” his GI Bill to use later when the tuition is more expensive and he could get some good out of the Yellow Ribbon program.

However, if his goal is to get a bachelor’s degree and stop, then he might as well start using his GI Bill benefits right now and save you from spending two years worth of tuition.

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