Use your GI Bill wisely

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SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo.  — Use Your GI Bill Wisely–It’s Worth More Than You Think.

I’m constantly preaching to my Airmen about how completing a CCAF and Bachelor’s degree program will further their career opportunities in and out of the Air Force.  However, with a little bit of forethought, planning and the full utilization of all your Air Force education benefits, you can get your degree for basically the price of books and save $100,000 plus on the education of your dependents through the Post 9/11 GI-Bill benefits transfer program. 

Now, if you’re a single Airman who came into the AF with the sole reason of earning the GI Bill, getting out and going to college; read no more.  You’ve done your time serving your country and getting out and persuing education is a great plan.  However, if you’re married, have dependents or plan on being married and having dependents someday, I would advise you to use your GI Bill benefits smartly.  My daughter graduates this year from the University of California Santa Barbara and my son graduated last year from Waldorf College in Iowa.  Both four-year colleges cost about $25,000 each year, so for two kids, four years including room and board, that’s $200,000.  However, by utilizing grants, in-state tuition, scholarships and mostly my GI bill, I was able to get both my kids through college with only about $20,000 out of my own pocket.  Amazing, right!

To make this educational success story happen for you there are three steps you need to take.  First and foremost, transfer your GI Bill to your dependents as soon as possible.  Once your GI Bill benefits are transferred, you will owe the Air Force four more years of service before your dependents can receive money for school.  Don’t wait if you think you are going to transfer GI Bill benefits!  Next, use Tuition Assistance for your own personal education while on active duty.  I know that may slow you down on your own graduation goals because TA is limited on how much you can spend per year, but resist the temptation to dip into the GI Bill.  Lastly, when the time comes to send your dependents to school, get smart on grants, in-state tuition, scholarships and the Yellow Ribbon program.  Using the aforementioned programs in conjunction with your GI Bill can save you literally thousands and thousands of dollars.

In my 25 years of service, this has been, by far, my most tangible benefit.  My kids would not have gone to four-year colleges without the GI Bill, and this benefit is available to all military members that meet the eligibility requirements of service.  For more information, a good place to start is the VA Post 9/11 GI Bill website. http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/post911_gibill.asp