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The Montgomery and Post-9/11 GI Bills: Which One is Right for You?

After World War II, Congress saw a chance to help returning veterans. With millions coming back from the war without jobs, along with the still vivid memories of the Great Depression, Congress knew offering a way to help soldiers attend school was about more than just helping veterans--it could help prevent another collapse of the economy.

While most in Congress were in agreement about the education assistance and home loan guarantee portion of the GI Bill, they disagreed on the unemployment provision. In the end, the Bill passed intact and President Roosevelt signed the first veterans' GI Bill into law on June 22, 1944. As a result, millions jumped at the chance to attend a GI Bill college and get an education. By 1947, 49 percent of college students were veterans.

The next big GI Bill change came in 1984 when Sonny Montgomery introduced legislation to update the original bill. The new Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) was the result.

The last major change to the GI Bill came in 2008 when the Post-9/11 GI Bill passed. A radical departure, the Post-9/11 GI Bill includes a housing allowance, book stipend, and a dependent transfer option. While not perfect for every Army servicemember or recently discharged veteran, it is light-years ahead of its Army GI Bill predecessors.

Post-9/11 GI Bill Eligibility

Minimum eligibility starts with as little as 90 days of Army active duty service with full benefits kicking in at 36 months or more of service. If you were discharged with a service-connected disability, you can be eligible with as little as 30 days of service. In all instances, an honorable discharge is required.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill Features

The Post-9/11 GI Bill has four unique features not found in any previous Army GI Bill, specifically:

  • A housing allowance to help cover living expenses
  • A book stipend
  • The Yellow Ribbon program to help make private and out-of-state tuition more affordable
  • A dependent transfer option for those who are eligible

The Post-9/11 GI Bill focuses upon students attending degree-producing GI Bill schools which means it generally does not pay for trade, technical, license, or certification programs at non-degree producing GI Bill schools.

Housing Allowance and Book Stipend. With the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the VA pays your GI Bill college directly for your tuition and fees, up to the highest in-state, public school undergraduate tuition for the location of the school. As a student, you get paid a monthly housing allowance based on the zip code of your school and up to a $1,000 per year book stipend.

Yellow Ribbon Program. If you attend a private school, are enrolled in a graduate program or pay out-state tuition, ask your GI Bill school if it has a Yellow Ribbon Agreement. If it does, your school may pay up to half the amount of tuition and fees not covered by your Army GI Bill and the VA then matches the school's contribution. This can leave you with very little, if any, school costs left to pay.

Transfer Option. Another great feature of the Post-9/11 GI Bill is the option to transfer remaining education benefits to your spouse, or dependent children, or both. The trick of this option is that the transfer has to take place while you are still serving in the Army--after discharge, you can't add dependents and transfer benefits to them.

The Montgomery GI Bill

After three years of service, full benefits eligibility for the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) is established. With this Army GI Bill, veterans all receive the same amount (currently $1,368 per month) and are responsible to pay their own tuition and fees.

The MGIB is more flexible in the educational programs it covers including programs that are:

  • Degree-producing (bachelor's, master's, associate's, etc.)
  • Non-degree producing
  • Licensing
  • Certification

Based on comparison studies, the MGIB may be the better option for servicemembers who:

  • Take online-only courses
  • Attend a public school that does not charge veterans tuition
  • Are at the Post-9/11 GI Bill 40% tier level

Which GI Bill is Right for You?

As the chart below shows, if you strictly go by dollar amounts, the Post-9/11 GI Bill pays you more than the MGIB only starting at the 60 percent tier and above:

MGIB

($1,368/mo. times 4mos.)

Post-9/11 GI Bill Tier Level

Tuition and Fees

(perm term)

Housing Allowance

(times 4 mos.)

Book Stipend

($41.67/credit times 12 credits. Maxes out at 24 credits per year.)

Total per term

$5,472

40%

$1,797

$578 X 4 = $2,312

$500

$4,609

$5,472 *

50%

$2,246

$723 X 4 = $2,892

$500

$5,638

$5,472

60%

$2,696

$868 X 4 = $3,272

$500

$6,468

* While the 50% Post-9/11 GI Bill tier looks like the better option, it is almost a draw when calculated over the whole academic year. This is because the book stipend maxes out at the end of the second term and you are not paid the $500 for the last term of the academic year.

However, keep in mind that there are other considerations you must make besides monetary ones:

  • If you are taking online-only classes, the Post-9/11 GI Bill does not pay a housing allowance and the MGIB may be a better option;
  • If you plan on taking a non-degree-producing course not taught at a degree-producing GI Bill school, the Post-9/11 GI bill does not cover this type of training, but the MGIB does.
  • If you are still in the Army, and plan on transferring Post-9/11 GI Bill education benefits to your spouse or children, you have to do this while you are still serving.

So, which G.I. Bill is right for you? It depends on:

  • Your education goals
  • How you plan on using your GI Bill, whether you wish to transfer benefits to dependents or not
  • Tuition costs

While the Post-9/11 GI Bill is a great addition to the Army GI Bill family, it isn't right for everyone. Be sure to do your homework before you decide to switch. If you decide to switch to the Post-9/11 GI Bill, know you can't change back.

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This list does not include all schools that accept GI Bill funding or VA Benefits. For a more complete list of schools, click here.

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This list does not include all schools that accept GI Bill funding or who are participating in the Yellow Ribbon Program or VA Benefits. For a more complete list of schools, click here.

Disclaimer: Armystudyguide.com does not guarantee the schools listed above accept GI Bill funding. Please check with the school before enrolling.