The GI Bill can go a long way toward helping veterans earn a degree, with an opportunity to increase income potential. However, the GI Bill doesn’t always offer enough benefits to complete a college degree. There are many contributing factors outside of only the high costs of college. Things happens, some semesters go better than others and the biggest limitation with the GI Bill is the 36-month cap. Nevertheless, it is possible to complete a college degree before you run out of GI Bill benefits, but sometimes it can be incredibly difficult, especially if you are working on more advanced degrees.
Tips to Completing Your Degree with the GI Bill
Load up on Classes. The more classes you take each term, the quicker you will complete your degree. Because of the Post 9/11 GI Bill works differently than the MGIB, students can load up on classes and the courses will still be paid with the Post 9/11 GI Bill.12 hours are considered a full time course load at most universities. This change will require a life balance, and should be discussed with your family. However, it can save students a lot of time and money in the long run.
Test out of classes. Many colleges give students credit for life experience, military experience, or for testing out of courses. It’s highly recommended researching these options and taking advantage of them whenever possible. Not all schools accept these tests or credits, so again be sure to speak to a counselor before spending time preparing to test out of classes.
Tips for When Your GI Bill Runs Out
Understand how long your benefits are good for- GI Bill benefits are typically good for 36 months’ worth of classes.
Scholarships, financial aid, and veteran’s educational benefits- The first step is to see if you are eligible for any scholarships or financial aid, including grants such as the Pell Grant.
Look at state benefits – Many states offer education benefits for veterans. For example, Texas has the Hazelwood Act which extends educational benefits at state colleges to veterans who are enlisted in the state of Texas. Illinois, and several other states have similar programs.
Placement programs or government reimbursements- Troops to Teachers is a program that will help military veterans earn a teaching degree in exchange for agreeing to teach classes in a low-income area for a certain period of time.
Student Loans- Of course if you can avoid it, do it! However, sometimes student loans may be the best option for you.
Vocational Rehabilitation (VR)
Do you have a service connected disability rating of at least 10%? If the answer is yes, you may qualify for additional assistance often overlooked by VR&E services. Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) is a federal-state program that helps people who have physical or mental disabilities get and keep a job.
If you are found eligible for benefits, you and your counsoler will put together a Rehabilitation Plan. This is an individualized, written plan of services, which outlines the resources and criteria that will be used to achieve employment or independent living goals. The plan is an agreement that is signed by you the veteran and the VRC. It is updated as needed to assist the veteran to achieve his/her goals.
More information can be found here.