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How Can the GI Bill Help You Pay for College?

Many students consider joining the armed forces for a multitude of reasons, the most important being serving their country. The educational benefits are plentiful as well, however, thanks to the GI Bill, which provides veterans and their dependents with a way to pay for aspects of their schooling.

The GI Bill includes several educational programs, with varying eligibility requirements and different types of benefits. Some of these programs offer funding for four year- universities, community colleges, and advanced degrees while others include online or distance learning options, providing even more flexibility for GIs with jobs and families. Still other programs provide for apprenticeships, internships, flight training, and testing procedures. Benefits come in the form of tuition and fee payments, housing expenses, books and supplies, and monthly cash benefits.

The criteria for the different components of the GI Bill vary according to length and dates of service, as well as whether the veteran has served in Active Duty or in the Reserves. The following is a brief recap of some of the most commonly used benefits claimed by veterans as they choose to continue their education.

The Post 9/11 GI Bill - This program is specifically for veterans with at least 90 days of combined service since September 11, 2001, as well as veterans who were discharged with a service-connected disability after 30 days of service. This program does not apply to educational pursuits begun before August 1, 2009.

The Post 9/11 GI Bill pays tuition and fees directly to an in-state public college or university, up to $1000 for books and supplies, and a monthly housing allowance for a veteran with a rank of E-5 or greater, who has dependents. An E-5 rank varies according to the branch of service: In the Army and the Marines, an E5 is a Sergeant; in the Navy and the Coast Guard, the E -5 rank is a Petty Officer, Second Class; the Air Force E-5 rank is known as a Staff Sergeant.

In addition, the Post 9/11 GI Bill will pay a one-time rural benefit if you live in a low population area and you need to relocate to a larger city to be able to attend school.

This benefit will pay for up to 36 months of education benefits and can be used anytime up to 15 years after you are released from active duty.

The Montgomery GI Bill - Selective Reserve - This portion of the MGIB is for members of the Selected Reserve, including the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard Reserves, Army National Guard, and the Air National Guard. To be eligible, a member must have served six years in the Selected Reserve, completed initial active duty for training, earned a high school diploma or GED, and remain in good standing in a Selected Reserves unit. Like the other programs, these benefits provide up to 36 months of educational assistance toward a degree programs, certificate or correspondence courses, cooperative training, independent study programs, and more.

The REAP Program - The REAP program provides educational benefits (up to 36 months) to Reserve service members who were called to active duty in response to a war or national emergency. The benefit amount is determined by the number of days on continuous active duty service and is available to members after serving 90 consecutive days of active duty after September 11, 2001. For more details, see REAP Questions and Answers.

With each aspect of the GI Bill, because a veteran's eligibility is determined by exactly when and how they served, it is important to discuss the particular details of your service and your educational desires with your choice college's financial aid advisor. Veterans can also get help to determine which programs they are eligible for from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Disclaimer: This is a private website that is not affiliated with the U.S. government, U.S. Armed Forces or Department of Veteran Affairs. U.S. government agencies have not reviewed this information. This site is not connected with any government agency. If you would like to find more information about benefits offered by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, please visit the official U.S. government web site for veterans benefits at