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With the Montgomery GI Bill, College Fund and Tuition Top-Up, Should I Convert to the Post 9/11 GI Bill?

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I enlisted in 2000 with a $40,000 college fund in my contract. I also contributed $1,200 towards the Montgomery GI Bill and paid a $600 to Tuition Top-Up to receive additional benefits. I have used approximately 10 months of the Montgomery GI Bill (in the past). I am looking to start back to college soon and am wondering if I should convert to the Post 9/11. I think it is the best bet for me but am not sure. What are the benefits from my original enlisted $40,000 college fund because I can’t find info on that anywhere. Thanks.

A: Actually your $40,000 college fund is somewhat misleading in that the $40,000 figure includes the money you would get from both your college fund and Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB). The way it was usually presented, many military members thought it was $40,000 additional dollars on top of what they would get from their GI Bill.

So considering the MGIB paid $650 per month in 2000 when you enlisted, 36 months of that GI Bill would have been worth $23,400. That would have made your College Fund worth about $19,400 ($40,000 – $23,400) or about $538 per month ($19,400/36 months). Your Top-Up fund would pay you about $13.80 per month ($5,400/36 months).

So if you went to school today under the MGIB, you would get about $2,200 per month. Out of that money, you would have to pay tuition, fees, books, etc.

If you convert to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the VA would pay your tuition up to the resident rate at a public school or up to $19,198.31 per year at a private school. Monthly you would get a housing allowance that averages around $1,300 per month or up to $714.50 per month if you take all of your classes online.

I can’t tell you exactly what you would get for your housing allowance as it depends on the zip code of your school, the number of credits you take, and as you can see, if you attend classes on campus or online. You could figure it out though by using the “E-5 with Dependents” figure from the BAH Calculator.

Once per semester, you would also get a book stipend worth $41.67 per credit. There is a $1,000 per year limit, but it’s enough for a couple of 12-credit classes per semester and would give you up to $500 per semester for two semesters per year.

Being Tuition Top-Up can’t be used with the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you would lose that money if you converted, but don’t let that be your final determining factor. You should have enough information now so you can work it both ways and see which GI Bill would serve you the best to use up your remaining 26 months of your GI Bill.

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