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Would It Be Better to Use My Montgomery GI Bill or Post 9/11 GI Bill to Fund My Master’s Degree?

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q:

I am active duty and currently have the MGIB and never used benefits. I want to get a Master’s Degree and want to know if it would be better to use the MGIB or convert and use the Post 9/11 GI Bill before starting? Or should I initially use the MGIB while I start slowly 1 or 2 classes a semester and then convert later when I get used to going to school again and take more classes and use the Post 9/11 GI Bill to top up Tuition Assistance.

A: Being you are still on active duty, I would first consider using Tuition Assistance (TA) and Tuition Top-Up. Using TA is a great way to maximize your GI Bill entitlement as TA pays most of the bill. How it works is TA pays up to $166 to $250 per credit hour, depending on which branch of service you are in, up to a maximum of $4,500 per year.

If your tuition costs more that TA would pay, or you hit your yearly cap early in the academic year, the additional amount not paid by the VA and taken out of your unused GI Bill benefits.

Under the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB), you use up one month of entitlement for each month of benefit paid, so your entitlement is reduced for $1,564 increment paid out by the VA to your service branch.

Entitlement use under the Post 9/11 GI Bill is calculated differently – by your rate of pursuit. So if you are a full-time student, your Post 9/11 GI Bill entitlement is reduced one month for each month of benefits that is paid out. So if you are a full-time student using Top-Up with the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you are using up one month of benefit for each month the VA has to pay out benefits regardless of the amount they pay. If you are a ¾ time student, then you are using up ¾ of a month for each month.

So to answer your question, and because of the way entitlement use is calculated under each of the two GI Bills, I think it makes more sense to stick with the MGIB for now. The upside to doing this is once you have exhausted your MGIB benefits, you could switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill and get an additional 12 months of benefits.

However, if you switch with MGIB benefits left, then all you get is the same number of months of benefits under the Post 9/11 GI Bill as you had left under the MGIB.

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