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Can I Use My Post 9/11 GI Bill Benefits to Take Classes Outside of My Degree Program?

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I’m a Post 9/11 GI Bill participant in graduate school. My school’s certifying official has reservations about letting me take classes that are outside of my degree program. Can I use my benefits to take classes outside of my degree program in order to prepare for a more advanced degree (doctorate)?

A: No you can’t – at least if you plan on the VA paying for them. The VA will only let you have one degree plan in place at a time. If the classes you want to take are not on that degree plan, the VA will not pay for them ÔǪ period.

Also, the credits for those classes will not count either as far as calculating your Post 9/11 GI Bill monthly housing allowance and book stipend. To see what kind of effect it can have as far as how much you would get, let’s say your school considers 12 credits as full-time and you are taking 12 credits but two 3-credit classes are not on your current degree plan. Because you are not taking at least 51% of the number of credits your school considers full-time, you would not qualify for any housing allowance and you would only get $250 in book stipend instead of $500.

Let’s use the same scenario, but this time say you are taking one 3-credit class not on your degree plan and your full-time monthly housing amount is $1,600. Instead of paying you for 12 credits, the VA would only pay you for 9 instead, dropping your housing allowance down to $1,200 instead of $1,600. Plus you would have to pay tuition for the unauthorized class.

Your school VA Certifying Official was wise in having reservations about you taking non-degree plan courses. Now you know the rules and how it would affect your payment, so you can make an informed choice as far as if you want to do it or not.

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