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How Soon Can I Start Using the Benefits of the GI Bill for Myself?

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

I’m interested in taking college classes while still in the military. I have prior college and would like to continue on to a bachelor’s degree. How soon can I use the benefits of the GI Bill for myself?

A: I would consider using Tuition Assistance program to take classes while you are in the military and until you are eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. They are free and will pay up to $250 per credit with an annual cap of $4,500. If you do the math, you will see the $4,500 will cover 18 credits at $250 per credit. If your credits costs less, then you could take more credits before hitting your annual cap.

Once you are eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill (after serving for at least two years), you can then also use the Tuition Top-Up program, which pays tuition costs over $250 per credit or your education costs over your $4,500 annual cap if you hit your annual cap early in the year.

That money is paid by your service branch and they, in turn, bill the VA. The VA converts that dollar amount into months and days of entitlement and deducts that entitlement from your unused amount. While it does reduce your GI Bill entitlement, it does so at a much slower rate.

If you don’t take advantage of Tuition Assistance, you are throwing free money away. It is one of your benefits, so use it!

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