How Does Being Enrolled in Online Education Affect my GI Bill Monthly Living Stipend?

Distance education programs are becoming increasingly popular, and more reputable institutions are offering accredited online degree programs than ever before. While a variety of different students, including parents and those who are full-time employed, find distance education to be convenient, veterans can truly benefit from taking degree programs online.

One of the major benefits that veterans receive upon retiring from service is a GI Bill, which goes towards paying for housing and living expenses while the veteran is attending school to pursue a degree or technical license. In the past, distance learners were excluded from receiving any type of living stipend, but the VA has expanded the policy to offer some type of stipend for online students. Read on and learn how being an online student can affect your monthly GI Bill before you select your distance learning classes.

Resource: Top 15 Best Online Colleges for Military and G.I. Bill 2015

Eligibility Changes in 2011 Benefit Distance Learners

Prior to 2011, all veterans were required to take traditional classroom courses to qualify for any type of Post 911 GI Bill stipend. The VA recognized that this eligibility requirement needed to be changed, and this is why the GI Bill 2.0 was introduced to expand housing stipend eligibility to distance learners. Rather than being completely excluded from receiving the stipend as in the past, students who are enrolled in distance education classes full-time will receive money for housing and other living expenses. Online students who previously would enroll in a single on-campus class for their stipend no longer have to rush to find open classes just for GI bill entitlement. The new eligibility rules benefit veterans upset about prior exclusions, but you should be aware of the difference in stipend awards between online and traditional learners.

How Much of a Living Stipend Will You Receive?

In 2011, the eligibility guidelines were not the only changes that took place as far as the GI Bill is concerned. While distance learners who take 100 percent of their classes online with an accredited school can receive their GI Bill, they will not receive the same Basic Allowance for Housing as a traditional student would. Based on the stipend eligibility guidelines, online students are entitled to receive 50% of the national housing allowance forecasts, even when the student is attending school full-time. In addition to this restriction, online learners are still subject to the new rate of pursuit prorating calculations. Based on this new rate of pursuit calculation, half-time students will receive only half of their Basic Allowance for Housing. The calculations are based on how many credits or course hours the student is completing for any given semester.

Other Changes You Should Know About

Your GI Bill will pay for your full tuition, school fees, books, supplies and monthly housing costs, but all veterans should know about other changes that could affect them. In the past, students would receive interval pay during school breaks, but as of August 2011, these interval payments will not be paid unless a school is closed due to an emergency. Be sure to account for the shortage in housing allowances during months where there is no school due to a summer or winter break.

If you are comparing different online and traditional degree programs, it is important to understand how your GI bill works so that you choose the best option. Online students may receive a portion of the living stipend, but this is not enough for everyone. Enroll in a program, earn your degree, and pursue a better future.