Ahhhh, college. New experiences, exciting challenges, and mountains of student debt. A college education is becoming increasingly expensive. If there’s a chance to cut costs, you should jump on it!
All of this makes Yellow Ribbons schools a great choice for military-connected students.
The Yellow Ribbon program offers the opportunity to decrease your out-of-pocket costs for earning a college degree. It’s a pretty sweet deal.
Why You Should Consider Attending a Yellow Ribbon School
The Post-9/11 GI Bill offers outstanding educational opportunities to military-connected college students. For qualifying beneficiaries, GI Bill benefits provide funds to cover the resident tuition and fees at public colleges.
If you’re going to be attending a private college or enrolling as a nonresident at a public university, there might be a gap between the GI Bill and the bottom line. That could leave you footing the difference. An education at a private or out-of-state college is definitely not cheap!
This is where the Yellow Ribbon Program comes in.
At select schools, there is a fund-matching program available to help reduce the total tuition costs.
Yellow Ribbon 101
Students at private schools or attending as an out-of-state resident, are entitled to the lesser value of their school’s tuition and fees or the national maximum funding for an academic year.
To help GI Bill beneficiaries cover a difference between their entitlement and their tuition, schools may elect to participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program. This is a voluntary program that does not impact your GI Bill entitlement or funds.
Participating schools select how much of their tuition and fees they are willing to cover. Then the VA will match those funds, and send that payment directly to the school. Both sets of funds are then applied to the final bill.
In order to qualify, students must meet specific criteria.
Only 100% GI Bill qualified veterans and/or their designated beneficiaries are eligible. Yellow Ribbon Program funds are not available to active duty service members or their spouses. However, the children of active duty service members may be eligible if their parent is qualified at the 100% level.
The percentage of eligibility is determined by the service member’s service record. To reach the 100% qualification level, and be eligible for the Yellow Ribbon Program, troops must serve at least 36 months on active duty or have served for at least 30 consecutive days before being honorably discharged for a service-related disability.
Yellow Ribbon Fine Print
The Yellow Ribbon Program sounds ideal! Extra money straight from the school and matching funds from the VA. What could be better?
However, there are some caveats.
First, veterans and their designated beneficiaries must qualify for full GI Bill benefits, based on the veteran’s service record. Not all veterans will qualify for 100% GI Bill funding. This is required to be eligible for any Yellow Ribbon Program.
Next, your selected school has to opt-in to the Yellow Ribbon Program. This is a voluntary opportunity, and not all public or private schools elect to participate.
Each school decides their own level of funding and the number of awards available in an academic year. This means that even if your school is part of the program, all funds for this year might have been awarded. You will still be able to apply your GI Bill, but there will not be Yellow Ribbon funds from the school applied to your bill.
Each year, a list of participating schools is released by the VA. Funds are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Award amounts may vary based on enrollment status and level.
In order to qualify, you must first apply to a Yellow Ribbon school and identify that you are eligible per the GI Bill qualifications.
Receiving Yellow Ribbon funds this year does not guarantee that your school will participate in the future or that they will contribute funding at the same level. However, your school should notify you of changes or if they are leaving the program.
If you do qualify for and receive Yellow Ribbon funding, this is a good program to help make higher education more affordable