The Yellow Ribbon Program is a partnership between the Department of Veterans Affairs and participating schools. It helps qualifying veterans and dependents who must pay higher out-of-state tuition, or higher private school, overseas school, or graduate tuition and fees.
This program is offered to those who are eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Not all schools participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program, so your first step as a prospective student is to learn whether or not the option is available to you.
Who is Eligible For The Yellow Ribbon Program?
Only those who qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill at the 100% level can take advantage of Yellow Ribbon options where available. At least one of the following qualifying criteria must be true:
- The applicant has served at least 36 months on active duty with an honorable discharge, or;
- The applicant was awarded a Purple Heart on or after September 11, 2001, and has an honorable discharge, or;
- The applicant served for at least 30 continuous days on or after September 11, 2001, and was discharged or released from active duty for a service-connected disability, or
- The applicant is a dependent using transferred benefits transferred, or;
- The applicant is a Fry Scholar
- Active duty service members are eligible for the Yellow Ribbon Program if they qualify at the 100% level.
If you are approved for Yellow Ribbon funds at one school but choose to transfer to another, the new school must also take part in the program and approve you for the program. If you decide to take fewer courses, the amount of funding you receive may be adjusted accordingly.
Schools may offer Yellow Ribbon funds in one of two ways:
- Student status (undergraduate, graduate, doctoral)
- Type of school
The VA official site provides this example: “A school could provide $1,000 for undergraduates, $1,500 for graduate students, and $2,000 for doctoral students. The school also could provide $1,800 for students in the school of engineering and $2,500 for students in the school of nursing.”
Yellow Ribbon Program Requirements For Schools
As mentioned above, not all schools participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program. In order to do so the school must meet all the below:
- The school participates in Yellow Ribbon
- The school hasn’t run out of Yellow Ribbon funds for the class time specified
- The school has certified your enrollment with the Department of Veterans Affairs
- The school has provided the VA with its Yellow Ribbon Program information
How To Apply For Yellow Ribbon Benefits
The first step toward being approved for the Yellow Ribbon Program is applying for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. You should apply online at VA.gov, by phone at 888-442-4551, or in person at a VA Regional Office. Once you apply and are approved you will get the documentation you need to submit to your school.
You may be required to submit the documents and apply for Yellow Ribbon through a college admission office or registrar. Wherever you are directed, be sure to ask about applying for Yellow Ribbon, this financial assistance for veterans is not automatically applied for on your behalf.
There may be a waiting time while your school makes a determination about your application. One thing that creates this wait? The school must ensure it has not used up its supply of Yellow Ribbon funds. The school decides how much to offer, and will be in touch with its decision.
How Much Will I Receive?
The VA official site states that the total funds available to each student may vary from college to college; the nature of your program may dictate how much is offered. For example, some schools might offer more Yellow Ribbon assistance to graduate students than to undergrads, and more funds for those in doctoral programs than either of the other two.
Or all assistance may be offered at the same level. It all depends on the school. That is one reason to shop around for the right institution–one that has what you need academically and financially.
What To Know About Yellow Ribbon Benefits
Yellow Ribbon funds are not available to those attending school on the Montgomery GI Bill.
Those who qualify for the Yellow Ribbon program must have a 100% benefit level for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Those who did not serve enough time in uniform to qualify for the 100% benefit level are not eligible.
Yellow Ribbon money can be used to pay for “any” mandatory fees, but the actual application of your Yellow Ribbon funds may depend on the specific agreement the VA has with your school.
The VA will determine how much Yellow Ribbon money you need by reviewing any financial aid you may already have specifically for paying tuition and fees. That amount would be subtracted from the total amount charged by the college. Once that is accomplished, the school’s Yellow Ribbon contributions are calculated and the VA matches that contribution.
When you enroll in Yellow Ribbon you are automatically entered into it the following year, assuming all the following are true:
- You must make “acceptable progress” toward completing the program based on your school’s criteria;
- You must remain enrolled in the school without a break as per that school’s policies;
- You must have some remaining Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.
If you need assistance navigating the Yellow Ribbon Program, contact your school’s registrar or campus veterans services office.
About the author
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter/editor for Air Force Television News and the Pentagon Channel. His freelance work includes contract work for Motorola, VALoans.com, and Credit Karma. He is co-founder of Dim Art House in Springfield, Illinois, and spends his non-writing time as an abstract painter, independent publisher, and occasional filmmaker.