Few military benefits available to veterans and their families are as advantageous and easy to use as the GI Bill education benefits. Whether you’re looking to jumpstart your post-military career with a degree or expand your horizons with some higher learning, it’s an amazing program. That said, the time commitment it takes to earn a two or four year degree may seem unfeasible. If you’re on active duty, working full-time, a stay at home parent, or otherwise can’t attend classes at a specific location, physically going to school may not be in the cards. Particularly for those on active duty, whose life is full of deployments, exercises, and regular PCS moves, all of which makes it hard if not impossible to attend a traditional brick and mortar college. But that doesn’t mean you need to give up on your dreams for higher education. Because using your GI Bill online to take classes or even attain a full degree has never been easier, even if you’re mid-move or overseas.
GI Bill Online Classes
Just as you might use the GI Bill towards tuition towards attending school on a physical campus, you can receive the same funding for an online degree or certification. It’s available to virtually all those who qualify for GI Bill benefits. The sole exceptions are those who are otherwise eligible for the standard benefits through Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance program’s stipulations.
How To Apply for Online GI Bill Benefits
The short and sweet of it is that applying for GI Bill benefits is pretty much the same whether you’re taking classes at school or remotely. Once accepted into a GI Bill approved online class, school, program, assemble the following pieces of paperwork:
- Social Security number
- Direct deposit information for your bank
- Documents covering your education and military history
- Basic information on the school or program you’ll be attending
Once all that’s in hand and you’re accepted, simply go to the VA’s GI Bill application site and apply. You’ll find that gathering the necessary paperwork and going through the process is fairly easy.
Online Education Options
If you haven’t looked into it before, you might be surprised by just how many high quality options there are for online education. From major universities to highly specific technical training, there are plenty of places in the digital world where you can learn.
1. Online Colleges and Universities
The most common way to use GI Bill benefits in the digital world is through an online college, of which there are many. And with the COVID-19 pandemic increasing the need for remote learning, more and more major colleges and universities are starting or expanding massive online education programs. Some people may be a bit wary about these kinds of schools after a number of so-called online colleges were exposed in recent years as less than legitimate. But don’t let those bad apples spoil your plans to get a degree from home. Just do your research before you pick the places you apply to. Numerous consumer watchdogs and publications, like US News and World Report, do a great job of identifying the best among truly legit online colleges.
2. Other Remote Learning Programs
Certain programs of study that don’t lead to a college degree of one level or another are also eligible. Granted, a lot of the non-degree programs the standard GI Bill pays for includes training you can’t do solely online. After all, things like advanced pilot or mechanical training require you to learn on actual planes and equipment. Yet just like colleges, the rapid expansion in online education due to the coronavirus pandemic is driving a surge in facilities offering training via correspondence. So there’s no shortage of training options. Many courses and certifications attainable through correspondence training, either over the internet or via old fashioned mail, are GI Bill eligible.
If you’re curious about a specific school, training program, or just what’s in your area, the Department of Veterans Affairs has a handy GI Bill comparison tool. Use it to check both availability and potential benefits.
GI Bill Online BAH
Just as it is for those who attend classes in person, the GI Bill for full-time virtual education includes a basic allowance for housing. The rate is not, however, based on the location where you take most classes (the current standard for those going to physical schools). Everyone using the GI Bill online receives the same BAH. It’s currently set at half the national average of the BAH for an E-5 with dependents.
Current BAH for Those Using GI Bill Online
The current rate of GI Bill BAH for those attending online classes is $916.50 per month. As with standard BAH, the rates typically change every year after the DoD evaluates the changes in average rent across the country.
4 Tips For Taking Online Classes While Moving
Another great upside of taking classes online is that you can take your education with you wherever you go. So when you PCS or go TDY, you don’t need to interrupt your learning process. It might seem like a lot to juggle a PCS move and degree program at the same time, but there are some steps you can take to make it a bit easier.
1. Plan Out Your Classes
Make sure the times you have actual, regular classes to virtually attend are times where you can sit and pay attention. Maybe that means taking a break from packing or knowing what coffee shop with wifi you’ll be stopping at along your driving route.
2. Pack Essentials Separately
Put your education supplies somewhere you can get to them. Have them in a box at the top of the pile or one that’s coming with you in your POV so your textbooks, notebooks, and other school gear are within easy reach.
3. Continue Studying
Don’t sacrifice your study time. Make sure you set aside however much of each day/week you usually do even amid the chaos of moving. Stay on track and don’t fall behind.
4. Communicate With Your Teachers
Let your teachers and administrators know you’re moving. That way, if any move related hiccups do occur and you need to miss a class or turn in an assignment late, they’ll know in advance you have a lot going on. Chances are they’ll be understanding.
With the rapid and continuous increase in internet capabilities all across the country, more and more major colleges offer courses and full degrees online. Not to mention institutions offering other vocational and educational programs that qualify for the GI Bill. As such, it’s never been easier to make use of the benefits you’ve earned wherever you are. Even if you’re on the road in the middle of a PCS move. So go ahead, expand your mind and open up new job opportunities. You don’t even have to get off your couch to do it.