Private University Financial Aid Options for Veterans
Since the end of World War II, various versions of the GI Bill have helped generations of veterans afford a college education. Over the years, millions of honorably discharged veterans have had some or all of their school costs covered by these government grants. Today's veterans have two different GI Bill options available to them to help cover the costs of attending a private college or university.
For veterans who enlisted after August 2009, and for those who enlisted after September 2001 and choose to use the program, the Post-9/11 GI Bill expands payments for costs associated with college but makes those payments directly to schools rather than to individuals. Honorably discharged veterans who have a minimum of 90 days of active duty service after September 10, 2001, are eligible. Based on their length of service, they can receive between 40 and 100 percent of the maximum allowable benefit.For private universities, that maximum was originally computed on a sliding scale based on the most expensive state schools where a veteran lived. However, a 2010 update to the provision, commonly referred to as GI Bill 2.0, created a national maximum rate for private institutions, currently set at $18,077.50 per academic year. Several states have exceptions: Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas. Veterans attending a private college in these states need to check with the Veterans Administration (VA) for current rates.
In addition to tuition and fee payments, under the Post-9/11 Bill, veterans may be eligible for a monthly housing allowance while attending school, as well as an additional stipend for books and supplies. If a veteran is eligible for the yearly maximum payment of $18,077.50 for attending a private college, but the school's cost exceeds that amount, extra financial aid may be available under the VA's Yellow Ribbon Program (YRP).
The YRP allows degree-granting, private universities to partner with the VA to partially or fully fund tuition and fee expenses that exceed the national maximum rate. A yellow ribbon school agrees to offer scholarships or tuition forgiveness for eligible veterans, with that amount matched by the VA. Veterans must apply for the program at their chosen, participating school.
Like any other post-secondary student, veterans can seek financial aid via scholarships and grants either from the private school they are attending, or from any other outside source. They can also apply for any one of the Department of Education's federally backed student loan programs, or seek loans from a private lending institution.
However, before borrowing money for their college education, eligible veterans should explore all of the options available to them under the most appropriate GI Bill. The federal government can make a private university education more affordable, and money that doesn't have to be paid back is always a better choice than saddling oneself with interest-bearing obligations that may take many years to repay.
Jeffery Sterner writes and blogs about personal financial well-being and issues that influence it for Debt.org, America’s Debt Help Organization.Stewart McHie
Program Director, MSBA