Did you know that you can use the GI Bill® to pay for grad school? The VA education benefit can cover more than just the cost of undergrad courses. In fact, even after using money from the GI Bill® to pay for your undergraduate degree, it’s likely you still have benefits to apply towards a graduate degree. Additionally, both federal- and state-level military and veteran education benefits exist to help fill in the gaps.
Versions of The GI Bill®
There are two versions of the GI Bill® — the Montgomery GI Bill® and the Post 9/11 GI Bill®, also known as the Forever GI Bill®. Benefits available to active military personnel, reservists, veterans, and their families are impacted by when they signed up. Older veterans and military service members probably signed up under the Montgomery GI Bill®. Younger service members, however, would have signed up under the Post 9/11 GI Bill®, which provides supplementary benefits. However, those under the Montgomery GI Bill® may opt to upgrade to the Forever GI Bill® making additional benefits available to them as well.
Additionally, there are two major differences that affect educational benefits when comparing the Montgomery GI Bill® and the Forever GI Bill®. The Montgomery GI Bill® doesn’t offer a housing allowance, nor does it permit military personnel to transfer their educational benefits to a spouse or dependent. The Forever GI Bill®, on the other hand, offers a housing allowance and transferal of educational benefits to a spouse or dependent.
Will the GI Bill® pay for graduate school?
Grad school students may use the GI Bill® to pay for their studies at both public and private universities. If you’ve previously used your GI Bill® benefits to pay for undergrad studies, any remaining entitlement may be used to pursue a post-graduate degree.
Tuition and Fees
The amount of graduate-level tuition and fees covered by the GI Bill® is determined by your Post-9/11 GI Bill® entitlement percentage. According to Military.com, private university benefits can total up to $26,042.81 which is paid directly to the school.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill® housing allowance is based on creditable active-duty service time. It pays a housing stipend based on the ZIP code location of the university you attend, paid after each month’s classes are over. According to Military.com, the current average housing allowance is $1,833. Students taking all their classes online are eligible for only half that amount. This housing allowance is based on the Department of Defense’s Basic Allowance for Housing for an E-5 with dependents and doesn’t require you to live on campus.
You don't qualify for a housing allowance if you:
- Take courses on a half-time basis or less
- Are a spouse using transferred benefits
- Are an active-duty service member
Books & Supplies
With the Post-9/11 GI Bill®, you’ll receive a maximum benefit of up to $1,000 that is paid at the beginning of each term. Based on the number of credits taken, this stipend pays $41 per credit hour.
Montgomery GI Bill® Grad School Benefits
The Montgomery GI Bill® provides compensation based on the number of classes taken, referred to as your “training time.” Under the Montgomery GI Bill®, training time is defined by the school for graduate-level coursework. For example, the VA will pay the full-time rate for whatever the school deems to be full-time. You can find current active-duty Montgomery GI Bill® rates here.
How Much Will the VA Pay Towards a Master’s?
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs determines the amount covered by the number of classes you attend and the time spent in those classes. For grad-level programs, the school decides how each hour is rated. You are paid according to that rating.
Can You Use the GI Bill® to Pay Towards More Than One Degree?
You can apply your education benefits toward a second degree after completing your first, including master’s and doctorate degree programs. Additionally, you can take classes at more than one school as long as the coursework at both schools counts towards your degree. The school granting the degree must deem the coursework at the second school applicable to the given degree.
The GI Bill® will not pay for a class taken more than once unless a failing grade is received in a class that is mandatory for graduation.
Can My Spouse Use My GI Bill® for Graduate School?
Substantial changes were made to the GI Bill® through the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act, also referred to as the Forever GI Bill® or the Post 9/11 GI Bill®. These changes expanded the ability of service members to transfer educational benefits to spouses and dependent children.
Under the Forever GI Bill®, active service members and members of the Selected Reserve can transfer some or all of their unused educational benefits to a qualified spouse or dependent children using a Transfer of Entitlement (TOE) if the following requirements are met:
- When the request is approved, you’ve completed six years of service.
- You agree to four additional years of service.
- The qualified recipient has enrolled in DEERS, the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System.
With a DoD-approved TOE, a qualified recipient may be awarded up to 36 months of benefits to cover the cost of books, supplies, housing, and tuition.
The Yellow Ribbon Program
When applying to a post-graduate program at a private school, the GI Bill® may not cover all of your costs; therefore, those planning to attend a university such as University of the Cumberlands should explore our Yellow Ribbon Program options for additional assistance. The Yellow Ribbon Program was designed to close the gap between the GI Bill® and the actual cost of a private school’s tuition.
The Yellow Ribbon Program can be especially vital for grad school applicants because of the way class attendance is calculated.
Yellow Ribbon benefits are not available to:
- Active-duty military members
- Spouses of active-duty military members
- Those attending an overseas school, unless the school has a main stateside campus
To receive benefits, the program you intend to enter and the school you plan to attend must both be approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Additional Considerations for Using GI Bill® Benefits for Grad School
Consider the following important information when using GI Bill® educational benefits to cover the cost of grad school:
- What additional fees will be incurred if you choose to attend an out-of-state college? Many schools, including University of the Cumberlands, permit active-duty, guard, reservists, veterans, and their spouses to attend as in-state students despite their physical location.
- A grad student utilizing the GI Bill® is expected to make academic progress, just as they did as an undergrad student. Failure to meet certain requirements will affect benefits.
- You may take classes at more than one school if certain criteria are met. See the section above, Can You Use the GI Bill® to Pay Towards More Than One Degree.
- The Forever GI Bill® allows Purple Heart recipients (awarded on or after 9/11/2001) to apply for 100 percent level benefits for up to 36 months.
- When you attend a private school like University of the Cumberlands, you may find the GI Bill® does not cover all educational expenses. Supplemental resources may be available to help close the gap between actual expenses and what the GI Bill® covers. Examples of these programs include the Yellow Ribbon program outlined above and other state and federal programs such as those listed below.
- Although graduate school attendance is possible while on active duty, you may require permission from your chain of command. In general, first-term military personnel often have restrictions on their activities, including the pursuit of an off-duty education.
Programs that Offer Educational Benefits to Veterans
Unfortunately, there is no one place you can go to for a comprehensive list of state-level assistance and benefits; however, we've put together a list of resources to get you started on your journey towards discovering some of the many military service benefits various state and federal agencies may have to offer.
- States that Offer Free Tuition to Veterans
- The American Legion’s list of Veterans Education Benefits by State
- Military.com’s list of Your 2021 State Veterans Benefits
- Military Tuition Assistance Program
- U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid—programs include grants, work-study programs, and federal low-interest loans
- VA Education and Training Benefits
- State Veterans Benefits
Many states offer education benefits and programs to veterans as an alternative or supplement to federal GI Bill® benefits. Some states offer grants, scholarships, or tuition waivers to assist veterans who don’t qualify for federal assistance or to help fill in the gaps when federal assistance falls short.
Use the GI Bill® to Continue Your Education at University of the Cumberlands!
University of the Cumberlands is a designated Military Friendly® School. In fact, Cumberlands ranks seventh in the nation among private schools offering doctoral degree programs. This means that when you choose to pursue your post-graduate degree at University of the Cumberlands, you’re choosing a high-quality school that makes quality education accessible to U.S. military personnel and their families. According to Military Friendly®, universities awarded this designation serve as “an example to American schools.”
University of the Cumberlands waives the application fee for veterans, reservists, and active-duty military personnel. We have a flexible online program that makes it easy to study from anywhere in the world. Providing numerous military benefits, University of the Cumberlands works hard to invest in the future of our active-duty service members, reservists, veterans, and their families.
*GI Bill is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)*