14 July 2015

Yellow Ribbon Programs: What You Should Know About Your Education Benefits

David Yoo, RallyPoint Civilian Careers.

Yellow Ribbon Program Veterans

BestColleges.com pulled a 2012 report from NBC News which noted that there are roughly 800,000 veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces currently attending college, but that many of those who attend do not complete their full time in the institution. Disheartening statistics of veteran college drop out rates, however, have bred more active responses from legislators, schools, and communities to adopt better measures to ease the transition to the civilian world. Of those measures, the Yellow Ribbon Program stands out in aiding veterans in covering often expensive tuition costs. 

In our previous post about noting important details about the GI Bill, we mentioned the Yellow Ribbon Program and how schools have partnered with the VA to help alleviate the costs of higher education for returning veterans. 

GI Bill Yellow Ribbon Program Marketing Business Major
Going back to school after years of service can be a valuable way to pick up a few things that may help you in your transition to working in the private civilian sector. Many schools offer classes and degrees in technical areas and non-technical subjects. You can get a background in areas such as programming or business and marketing, which may be worth your time if you don't think your military experience is enough to land you a full-time job that you would like to work for.

So how do you get these benefits and what exactly is the Yellow Ribbon Program? We'll review some of the details we've mentioned before in our previous post but also go into more detail regarding the specific eligibility requirements and specific benefits.

So What is the Yellow Ribbon Program?

The Yellow Ribbon Program is essentially a component of the Post-9/11 GI Bill that help veteran students attend more expensive private universities by cutting tuition costs. Usually, the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits for veterans attending private schools have a cap mandated by the national maximum, meaning costs are not always covered by GI Bill benefits. The maximum changes often and can can be tracked here. Currently the maximum is $20,235.02 and will change this year on August 1, 2015 to $21,084.89.

According to the VA, the Post-9/11 GI Bill will pay you: 

  • All resident tuition and fees for a public school 
  • The lower of the actual tuition and fees or the national maximum per academic year for a private school

Veterans Yellow Ribbon Program
"Your actual tuition & fees costs may exceed these amounts if you are attending a private school or are attending a public school as a nonresident student. 

Institutions of Higher Learning (Degree Granting Institutions) may elect to participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program to make additional funds available for your education program without an additional charge to your GI Bill entitlement

These institutions voluntarily enter into a Yellow Ribbon Agreement with VA and choose the amount of tuition and fees that will be contributed. VA matches that amount and issues payments directly to the institution."

Eligibility Requirements

The VA provides a list of requirements that you must meet in order to receive the Yellow Ribbon Program benefits. Here's the complete list that you can find on the VA's site:

  • You must be eligible for the maximum benefit rate under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. 
  • You must not be on active duty or a spouse using transferred entitlement. 
  • Your school must agree to participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program. 
  • Your school must have not offered Yellow Ribbon to more than the maximum number of individuals, as stated in their participation agreement. 
  • Your school must certify your enrollment to VA and provide Yellow Ribbon Program information 
You may be eligible if you fit the following circumstances: 

  • You served an aggregate period of 36 months in active duty after Sept. 10, 2001. 
  • You were honorably discharged from active duty for a service-connected disability and you served 30 continuous days after Sept. 10, 2001. 
  • You are a dependent eligible for Transfer of Entitlement under the Post-9/11 GI Bill based on the service eligibility criteria listed above. 

Some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)

Am I automatically eligible for the Yellow Ribbon Program if I am also eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill?

No. Only Veterans and dependents who received your benefit through a transfer are eligible. Active duty service members and spouses are not eligible. Also, the school or institution itself must be approved to participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program and you have to apply to the school.

If the school I intend to enroll in participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program, am I automatically going to receive the benefits?

No. The school or institution partners with the VA to help cover tuition, but the extent to which the school provides these benefits depends on the school. There are limits on the number of veterans who can receive benefits from the program, and this is determined on a first-come, first-served basis. You have to apply to the school and the school should notify you whether you were accepted into the program and thus eligible for the benefits. 

How do I know whether the school I want to attend participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program?

You can find schools that participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program through the VA's list of Yellow Ribbon participants on the GI Bill website. Here is a direct link, where you can find schools that participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program by state. 

You should also look into schools that have an overall more robust program that provide support for veteran students. You can find informative lists of institutions that offer more benefits for veteran students seeking higher education through some simple searching.

For more FAQ's and answers, check out the VA's page here. Join more discussions or learn more about transitioning in our employment and transition thread here


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