Paying for college is expensive.

For military dependents wishing to attend colleges there are options. As a military dependent, I have been accepted to Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., where I will be majoring in journalism, using the Yellow Ribbon Program.

The Yellow Ribbon Program is offered to people who receive the maximum benefit rate under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. This includes those who served 36 months active duty, Purple Heart recipients with an honorable discharge, children using transferred benefits if their sponsor is at the 100 percent level, and those discharged after 60 days with a service-related disability. Starting Aug. 1, 2022, both service members and transferee spouses at the 100 percent level will also be granted the Yellow Ribbon Program.

Currently the Post-9/11 GI Bill only covers up to $23,671.94 per academic year. Starting Aug. 1, 2019, it will cover up to $24,476.79 each year according to the Veterans Administration. Some private universities, such as Lynn University, can cost upwards to $50,000, leaving a student with around $26,000 to pay out of pocket. The Yellow Ribbon Program can further decrease the out-of-pocket cost when their charges exceed the amount payable under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

The Yellow Ribbon Program was created with the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance act of 2008. With the Yellow Ribbon program, participating institutions will choose the amount of tuition and fees that will be covered; the VA then matches that number and pays it directly to the institution.

All mandatory fees for the student’s educational program are covered under the program. However, incidentals such as parking, room and board, study abroad, or penalty fees will not be paid. Even though room and board aren’t paid for by the Yellow Ribbon Program, most students will still be able to essentially receive free room and board. The student is responsible for paying the room and board fees up front, but with the Post-9/11 GI Bill, a monthly stipend is given to the student once they are enrolled.

In my case, I will be paying $5,000 out-of-pocket for room and board. However, once I begin school I will receive $2,500 a month for living expenses from the VA. For military families, think of the monthly stipend as Basic Allowance for Housing. A BAH is a monthly allowance given to military members, and that allowance is decided based upon the cost of living in your location. This is also true for the Yellow Ribbon Program. The higher living costs in the college town, the higher the monthly stipend will be.

Swansboro High School Guidance Counselor Nicole Rains says that she has no knowledge of students who have used the Yellow Ribbon Program to attend college. However, there are local people like me who have taken advantage of this program.

Shannon Santana of Hubert used the Yellow Ribbon Program in 2010 at Westwood College for her degree in interior design. As Santana was starting college the Yellow Ribbon Program was relatively new.

“I only got a book stipend, and I only received the benefits for two or three semesters,” she said.

Much has changed since Santana enrolled in the program more than nine years ago with increased benefits to incoming students. Yet my experience throughout this process has shown me that very few people are aware of the benefits and opportunities that are afforded by the Yellow Ribbon Program.

In order to take advantage of this program, the university that you are attending must choose to participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program. Some schools will choose to limit the number of Yellow Ribbon Program recipients, so the university must have an open spot available in order to receive it. There is a full list of all participating schools, the amount of money that they offer, and how many students they offer it to on the GI Bill website at http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/yellow_ribbon.asp.

Caramia Valentin, a senior at Swansboro High School, is the spring 2019 intern at the Swansboro Area Chamber of Commerce.

(1) comment

David Collins

This is quite a generous program. You are quite lucky to be in a position to take advantage of it. My VA benefit package entitled me to a whopping $175.00/month back in the 70s. Does seem a shame to squander it on journalism or interior design but I guess since you do not have to pay it back .....Oh Well.

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