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If I Use Scholarships, How Does That Affect What I Would Receive from the GI Bill?

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Dear Ron, my father is currently a CMSgt in the Air Force and has 3 years left of his GI Bill, which he says he is going to split between my brother and me. Now that I have a year and a half of the GI Bill that I can use to cover my schooling, I was wondering what would happen to any additional scholarships I have earned. Florida has the Bright Futures program which will cover $3000 of tuition a year- do I lose this when I use the GI Bill, or does it make me ineligible for the GI Bill? I have also earned a $500 scholarship from an Elks lodge and am currently competing for various others. Can I deduct the amount of these scholarships from the GI Bill and use it for other things, such as purchasing food or a car? And if not, what becomes of these awards? Thank you!

A: What many Post 9/11 GI Bill users don’t know is the VA is the last payer when using multiple financial aid, tuition-dedicated programs. So if you have various scholarships and grants that are tuition fenced, meaning the money must be applied towards tuition, then the VA would only be responsible to pay what tuition difference is left and they would not pay as much toward your tuition as they would if you did not use any scholarships.

However, the down side is that you are still getting charged the same amount of entitlement. So for a semester of entitlement, you might only be getting just the housing allowance and book stipend for your benefit use. Is that a good use of your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefit? It isn’t in my estimation, but you have to make your own decision.

A better plan might be to use up your scholarship money and then use your Post 9/11 GI Bill after the scholarships are used up or no longer offered. You have up to age 26 to use your GI Bill benefits.

If your scholarships and grants are not fenced, meaning the money is either given directly to you or to your school and put into an account for you, then that ends up being extra money for you to use any way you want. If your non-fenced scholarship money goes to your school, and you are also using the Post 9/11 GI Bill, make sure your school knows to not use the money to pay for your tuition as that is already paid for by the GI Bill.

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