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Can I Use My Post 9/11 GI Bill at Schools Like Princeton and Columbia?

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello! Is there any way to get master’s degree on-line while serving active duty for 4 years and then continue with PhD for free or partially free? I mean with GI Bill, I’ve read somewhere that for 3 years active duty you get about $60,000 for education after demobilization. Or you can finance this amount of GI Bill money to pursue a degree while serving. So my question is: can you achieve master’s degree on-line in the Army and then PhD on campus as a civilian with financial aid? And the 2nd question is: do all schools (even Columbia or Princeton) allow you to finance your education in their walls with GI Bill? Thank you a lot.

A: Yes there is a way to do that – it’s called Tuition Assistance (TA) and Tuition Top-Up. The way it works is you use TA to pay for your tuition while you are going to school on active duty. The Army will pay up to $250 per credit up to $4,500 per year in TA. Anything over $250 or your annual cap, you can use Tuition Top-Up. How it works is the Army would pay all of your tuition and the amount over what TA would not pay is charged to the VA. They in turn, convert this dollar amount into months and days of GI Bill entitlement and reduce your GI Bill eligibility by that amount. It is a good way to go because it uses your GI Bill at a slower rate.

Then when you get out, you can use what is left of your GI Bill to pay for some of your PhD. When you look at PhD schools, look for one that has your PhD program in their Yellow Ribbon Program. Starting this fall if you go to a private school, the Post 9/11 GI Bill will only pay $17,500 per semester in tuition and fees. If your program is covered by their Yellow Ribbon agreement with the VA, the school can pay up to half of the difference between what they charge and what the GI Bill pays. The VA pays an equal amount, leaving you with less left to pay through other means.

You asked about the worth of the GI Bill. The Post 9/11 GI Bill is hard to nail down because of the way it pays, but it is at least worth $90,000 for 36 months of benefit and depending on where you go to school it could be more.

As far as school, yes, most schools accept the GI Bill if they are GI Bill-approved school.

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