Graphics provided by DoD

By: Katie Lange, Defense Media Activity

So, you’ve served your time in the military, and you’re ready to go back to school. But did you know your Post-9/11 GI Bill might not cover all of the tuition and fees for the institution you’re interested in?

The bill covers all tuition and fees for public schools. But if you want to attend a private or out-of-state school, it might not cover everything (read more about that here).

But there’s good news – you can still get most, if not all, of the funds you need through the Yellow Ribbon Program.

The Yellow Ribbon Program is an agreement between universities and the Department of Veterans Affairs to get former service members the extra funds they need for college. To qualify, you have to be at the 100 percent benefit level of the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

First things first, though: not all universities and colleges participate. To find out if the one you’re considering does, click here.

If you’re still interested, then keep reading!

Next step: Applying to the program. Except there’s nothing to apply to – you’re essentially doing that when you apply to the university or college. All you really need to do is notify the school’s certifying official.

“Where the GI Bill is given to the student veteran, the university participates in the Yellow Ribbon program, and together they combine to provide essentially full tuition for a student veteran,” said Chris Young, associate director of transfer admissions and veterans affairs at Drexel University, a private university in Philadelphia.

“You’re then provided your certificate of eligibility, which indicates that you’re 100 percent eligible,” Young said.

Veterans give that certificate to their school, which will determine if there are still slots available in the Yellow Ribbon Program – each participating institution agrees to a certain allotment. The school will then notify you if you’re accepted into the program. From there, it will send an enrollment form to the VA for certification.

Click here for a good example of how the program would work.

How the Program Has Helped

Michael Spina spent nine years in the Marine Corps after a stint in college in 2003.

“We were paying upwards of $30,000 a year,” Spina said of his tuition at that time. “So, I had come into the Marine Corps with a bit of debt on my shoulders. It’s an overwhelming feeling.”

He now has a family to feed, so transitioning out of the military and back to “the outside” also brought a level of uncertainty that was just as scary as his previous student loan debt. But he was able to go back to college using the Yellow Ribbon Program, and it’s helped immensely.

“It’s really the reason why I’m able to come to school at a private institution such as Drexel while having a family and being able to afford it,” Spina said.

The program is NOT for active-duty service members, but it’s definitely one to remember when you reenter civilian life!

READ MORE: Yellow Ribbon FAQs