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What Is the Best Approach for Tuition Assistance and the GI Bill to Pay for My MBA Program?

Q: I plan to attend a working professional MBA program. Total cost is $21,000 and is twelve courses over 20 months. I will still be on active duty for the first twelve months of this program. What is the best approach to Tuition Assistance/GI Bill payments that will cover this cost, without using too many total months of GI Benefits (in case I want to pursue a doctorate or law degree in the future.). In other words, how to I keep from using more months of GI Bill benefits to cover tuition than absolutely necessary.

A: Under the Rule of 48, you can get 48 months of benefits using both your Montgomery GI Bill and Post 9/11 GI Bill. That would give you 5.33 years of education. However, by using Tuition Assistance (TA) and Tuition Top-Up programs, you could extend that out to more time.

In my opinion, the best way for you to go would be to use TA and Top-Up for the twelve months of your MBA program while you are on active duty. TA can pay up to $250 per credit hour (and up to the $4,500 annual limit). Whatever costs exceed $250 per credit and $4,500 annually is passed on to the VA by your service branch. The VA converts that dollar amount to months and days of benefits and deducts that amount from your MGIB Bill benefits. Most likely your MBA tuition would exceed the $250 limit, so some costs would be passed to the VA, but because the TA is paying the bulk of the bill, it would not cost you much in benefits for the first 12 months.

Then once you are out, continue using your MGIB benefits until they are gone. At that point, send in a new VA Form 22-1990 from the eBenefits website and switch over to the Post 9/11 GI Bill and get your additional year of benefits.

I do want to caution you that you must have exhausted your MGIB bill benefits before switching. If not, then all you will get under the Post 9/11 GI Bill is the same number of months and days of benefits you had left under the MGIB. So while you can end up with 48 months of benefits, you have to use them in the way I described. If not, you would end up with a combined total of just 36 months.

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