What Is the Yellow Ribbon Program?

The Yellow Ribbon Program was established by the Post-9/11 Veteran Educational Assistance Act of 2008. This program allows institutions of higher education in the United States to voluntarily enter into an agreement with VA to fund tuition and fee expenses exceeding the tuition and fee amounts payable under the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

The program is intended to help veterans pay for private college, higher out-of-state and graduate school tuition. The Post-9/11 GI Bill covers significant tuition costs, but has gaps in it for certain schooling expenses. Veterans who qualify for the Yellow Ribbon Program can use this scholarship match program to cover additional college and graduate school expenses.

Understanding the Post-9/11 GI Bill

The Yellow Ribbon Program is part of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, so to understand what the Yellow Ribbon Program covers, you first need to know what the Post-9/11 GI Bill covers. Military personnel and veterans who meet certain requirements are eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

This bill covers college tuition costs, including fees, for a public school you attend in a state where you are a resident. It also covers the national maximum ($18,077.50 for an academic year) for your tuition for a private school. If the private school’s tuition is lower than the national maximum, then the bill covers that tuition cost.

The Yellow Ribbon Program Works With the Post-9/11 GI Bill

Though the Post-9/11 GI Bill is a great help to many active duty service members and veterans in paying for school, it has some significant gaps. If you attend school as an out-of-state student or if you attend an expensive private school, the bill won’t cover all your expenses.

That’s where the Yellow Ribbon Program comes in. A private school or a graduate program has to create a scholarship for veterans to help cover the gaps left by the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The VA will then match each dollar the scholarship offers, up to full coverage of tuition.

Higher learning institutions can decide to opt-into the Yellow Ribbon Program to help you pay for your education, but they are not obligated to do so. During your college search, make Yellow Ribbon Program participants the top of your list if you want to go to a private college or a graduate school. Otherwise, you lose out on this part of the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

Who Is Eligible?

In order to be eligible, you must:

  • You must qualify for the maximum benefit rate under the Posy-9/11 GI Bill
  • Your school must be part of the Yellow Ribbon Program and has confirmed your enrollment

You can’t be on active duty, nor can you be a spouse of an active duty service member. In some instances, children of service members qualify, but only if the service member meets specific criteria.

If you’re a veteran who qualifies for the Yellow Ribbon Program, using this additional benefit to pay for your tuition can cover significant costs of higher education. Remember that it doesn’t cover every expense incurred while attending college, nor does it replace making an income while you’re in college. That being said, hundreds of schools participate, bringing great financial aid to veterans.

How to Apply?

  1. Apply for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits — If you qualify you will receive a Certificate of  Eligibility (COE).
  2. Submit in your COE — Bring your Certificate of Eligibility to your school’s certifying official, financial aid office, military liaison, or other office determined by your school. You should ask to apply to your school’s Yellow Ribbon Program.

If you want to apply for the Yellow Ribbon program benefits, you should contact your school certifying official.

Remember: You have to choose to apply your GI benefits to college. You also have to elect the Post-9/11 GI Bill over another GI Bill offered to you before you can use these benefits. You can’t choose a different GI Bill at a later date.

Next Steps

  1. Wait for a decision 
  2. Follow up — Your school will notify you about whether or not you get accepted into the program and how much money you will receive for your tuition cost.


. “Education and Training.” Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP) – Education and Training, www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/yellow_ribbon/yellow_ribbon_info_schools.asp. Thurs. 21 June 2018

“Yellow Ribbon Program.” Vets.gov, www.vets.gov/education/gi-bill/yellow-ribbon/. Thurs. 21 June 2018