Should I Stay with the MGIB or Swtich to the Post 9/11 GI Bill?

Q: Hi. Here's my question. I have 9 months left on my MGIB. I did have the 3+ years of Active Duty service post 9/11. I have my Bachelor's Degree. Is my most effective utilization of what's left is to exhaust the 9 months of the MGIB? Then, I qualify for the additional 12 months of post 9/11? Just trying to ensure I get the best bang for my buck. 9 months of schooling plus the additional 12 will almost assuredly earn me my Masters. I just want to proceed carefully. Can you again remind me of how MGIB works? Sorry. It's been 4 years. Does the $$$ go straight to the school? Do I receive any funds at all or not? Thanks!

A:  With the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB), you get $1,426 per month and you have to pay your own tuition, fees, books and all other education-related expenses. Your school is not sent any money from the VA.

Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the VA pays your school directly for your tuition and eligible fees (up to the in-state maximum) and you get a monthly housing allowance based on the zip code of your school, and a book stipend up to $1,000 per year. The housing allowance across the whole United States averages at about $1,000 per month, however, it does greatly vary depending on where you go to school. Both the East and West Coast states are over twice that amount while some of the Upper Plains states are lower.

When you are selecting a school, ask if they have a Yellow Ribbon Agreement with the VA and if their program includes graduate programs. If they do, then the school can pay up to half of the difference between what they charge you for tuition and fees and what the VA will pay. The VA will pay an equal amount, so this considerably reduces the amount left for you to pay. The Yellow Ribbon Program is a great program in itself for those in an undergraduate program, but it becomes particularly valuable if you are in a graduate program such as yourself.   

So I think you can agree that your best bet is to get the extra 12 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill and the only way to do that is to use up your 9 months of MGIB first.

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