Education and Transition

Why you should consider Yellow Ribbon schools

The Yellow Ribbon Program under the Post-9/11 GI Bill assists qualifying veterans with affording higher education. In some cases, you can transfer these benefits to a dependent, making the program a crucial asset in providing tuition assistance for service members and their families.

Money received under the Yellow Ribbon Program will assist in paying for the cost of tuition at a private school or for attendance as a nonresident student at a public school. Schools that are part of the program set aside a certain amount of funds and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will match it.

To secure benefits, a service member must first see he or she qualified for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. If qualified, the service member will receive a Certificate of Eligibility (COE). The COE must be turned in to the Yellow Ribbon school’s certifying official or other appropriate financial or military aid office. From there, the school will decide if there is space in the program period for the service member and how much funding it will provide. Finally, the service member will be notified if he or she is accepted.

Qualifications under the Post-9/11 GI Bill

To receive benefits, veterans must first qualify for the maximum benefit rate under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Additionally, qualifying persons must meet at least one of five criteria that the VA has set.

Veterans must have served at least 36 total months on active duty, have received a Purple Heart on or after September 11, 2001 with honorable discharge after any amount of service, or served for at least 30 continuous days on or after September 11, 2001 and were discharged after 60 days with a service-connected disability.

Dependents can qualify if a veteran or service member who has served for 36 months on active duty and qualifies at the 100 percent level transfers his or her benefits.

Fry Scholars, which a scholarship program for children and dependents of veterans who died in the line of duty on or after September 11, 2001, can also qualify for the Yellow Ribbon Program.

At this time, active-duty service members and their spouses are not eligible for the maximum benefit rate. Under the Forever GI Bill passed in 2017, active-duty service members who qualify at the 100 percent level or spouses with transferred benefits from the 100 percent qualifying service member may become eligible on August 1, 2022.

School eligibility requirements

If a service member is eligible for the Yellow Ribbon Program, he or she needs to find a school that participates in the program in order to use it.

The VA offers its own tool to find Yellow Ribbon schools through its website.

Colleges and universities can elect to enter into an agreement with the VA and will agree to pay a certain amount of tuition. The VA will then match the contribution, greatly lessening the amount a student will pay. The agreement lasts one year and can be renewed in following years.

Under the program, the educational institution decides how much it will contribute and how many students it will accommodate on a first-come, first-serve basis.

The funds also do not cover everything. The contribution cannot exceed the national maximum amount allowed by law and money cannot be used for fees that are not mandatory, such as room and board and study abroad.

Funding that Yellow Ribbon schools give students is not standardized. Actual amounts of allocated funds vary by type of school and by what education program the eligible individual is pursuing. For example, the school may allocate a graduate student more money than an undergraduate student.

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