Here’s what you should know about Yellow Ribbon colleges and universities
(Photo: Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique Pineiro)

By Julie Provost

The Yellow Ribbon program can help your veteran go to the college or university that they want and be able to afford to do so. This program was established by the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008 and has been helping veterans go to school ever since.

What is the Yellow Ribbon Program?

This program is a provision of the Post-9/11 GI Bill that helps students attend expensive private schools at little or no cost. Typically, the Post-9/11 GI Bill payments at a private school are limited to a national maximum amount allowed by law. This means that it doesn’t usually cover everything. For the 2017/2018 academic year, the maximum amount is $22,805.34.

With the Yellow Ribbon Program, colleges and universities can choose to enter into an agreement with the VA to waive a portion or all of the tuition costs that are more than the maximum allowed. The VA will match the amount of the waiver. For example, if tuition costs are $45,000 and the school waives $10,000 of the tuition, the VA will match that for a total of $20,000 plus the Post-9/11 GI Bill that would pay the $22,805.34. The veteran would be responsible for only about $2,100 of the tuition for the year.

Who can use this program?

Veterans who are entitled to the maximum benefit rate determined by service requirements or designated transferees are able to use this program. Active duty and their spouses are not eligible. Child transferees of active duty might be eligible if the service member is qualified at a 100% rate.

You must be at a school that has agreed to be a part of the program for the year you plan to attend. There is also a maximum amount of students that can be a part of the program at each school so once the school hits the limit, they won’t be able to add any others. Since they take people based on a first-come, first served system you want to get your application in as soon as you can.

You also may be eligible if you have served an aggregate period of 36 months on active duty (after September 10, 2001); if you were honorably discharged from active duty for a service-connected disability, and you also served 30 continuous days after September 10, 2001; or if you are a dependent that is eligible for a transfer of entitlement with the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

How do I find Yellow Ribbon colleges and universities?

The list of schools for the 2017-2018 school year come out in June. Until then you can check the 2016-2017 listing to see if the school you are interested in has taken part in the program in the past. Things can change from year to year, but there is a good chance that if they took part in the program last year, they will again in the new school year.

What to remember about the Yellow Ribbon Program

There could be different amounts of the waiver based on what program you are going to be in at the school. For example, agreements could mean that the school allocates $2,000 for undergraduates and $4,000 for graduate students.

If you do use the program for one year, you might not be able to use the program again the next. That will depend on if the school continues in the program, if you can maintain satisfactory progress, that you remain continuously enrolled, and that you remain entitled under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. You also do not have to attend the college or university full-time to receive the award.

If you would like to use the Yellow Ribbon program, your first step is to make sure you are eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill at 100%. Then you will need to get your Certificate of Eligibility from the VA. After that, you can then give the certificate to the Yellow Ribbon school you would like to go to and begin the process.

Julie Provost is an associate editor at Military One Click and a National Guard spouse. She can be reached at