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Can I Use the Yellow Ribbon Program along with the GI Bill to Get My Master’s Degree?

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I have 12 months left on my Post 9/11 GI Bill benefit and I am a disabled veteran. Can I use the Yellow Ribbon Program to help me get my master’s degree at a participating school along with my GI Bill? I found one, Devry in Bellevue WA. Would I have to pay for the 2nd year with graduate loans to finish the program (it’s a 2 yr) as my GI Bill has only 12 months left or can I use the Yellow Ribbon Program for the 2nd year?

A: The Yellow Ribbon Program is not a separate GI Bill or program you can use by itself. It is a feature of the Post 9/11 GI Bill, so you have to use it in conjunction with the Post 9/11 GI Bill, therefore you would not be able to use it for your second year of school as you had suggested.

Depending on how your program at Devry is set up, you might not have to pay for all of your second year. Many schools call their programs two-year programs, but in reality they are two 9-month sessions. If that is so, then you would have three months left on your GI Bill after your first “year” in their program. Then you would only have to fund 6 months of the second “year”. If Devry’s program is a full two years, then yes, you would have to fund your second year in full as you would have exhausted your Post 9/11 GI Bill entitlement after the first year.

As an alternative to taking out loan, look into applying for scholarships and grants as they don’t have to be paid back. If you do not get enough to fully fund your second year, then you can use student loans as a final source of financial aid. Going this route, you would not have as much debt hanging over your head right away.

Because the Post 9/11 GI Bill only pays up to the resident rate, if you end up having to pay out-state tuition, that is where the Yellow Ribbon Program could help you. Your school could pay up to half the difference between what they charge and what the VA pays. The VA would then pay an equal amount potentially reducing what is left down to zero.

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