Alice Murphey: Financial Aid Expert

What your country and state can do for you

May 4, 2011

What your country and state can do for you

Uncle Sam wants you – to get a college education. And to make that happen, it offers a helping hand to U.S. veterans.

If you’ve served your country, you have several education financial-aid


The newest, the Post-9/11 GI Bill (, offers up to 36 months of aid. If you were on active duty on or after Sept. 11,

2001 and chose to go to school on or after Aug. 1, 2009, you may be eligible.

Or you may qualify for the Reserve Educational Assistance Program under the Montgomery GI Bill ( (You can’t get benefits under both programs, so choose the one that gives you the most.)

Here’s what your government offers you if you’re working toward a degree or certificate:

1. Cost of tuition and fees, not to exceed the most expensive in-state

undergraduate tuition at a public school

2.  Monthly housing allowance if attending school full time

3. Up to $1,000 per year for books and supplies

4. A one-time payment of $500 if you relocate from a rural area

In August, the GI Bill will be revamped to include other types of schooling, so check with the Department of Veterans Affairs to get the latest updates.

The Yellow Ribbon G.I. Education Enhancement Program is another chance to fund your college education. It is designed to help you cover tuition and fees that are higher than the most expensive in-state undergraduate tuition at a public college or university. See

There’s a catch, though: The school you choose must be in the VA’s program, plus tell how much tuition will be waived and how many veterans it will accept each year. But it’s a good deal because the VA will match the school’s portion (up to 50 percent) to reduce or eliminate your out-of-pocket costs.

To fill the gaps, there’s also a federal work-study program that allows you to work for the VA at an hourly rate.

In addition, New York State comes to the aid of veterans who are studying full or part time. If you are a state resident and choose to attend The City University of New York or The State University of New York, you can get up to 98 percent of the cost of undergraduate tuition, or in some cases, full tuition. See There are some strings attached. For instance, you have to be enrolled in an undergraduate, graduate or certificate program. And you also must have applied for a federal Pell Grant and a New York State TAP award.

But the rewards are great. Undergraduates can get aid for up to the equivalent of eight semesters (four years) of full-time study. And graduate students are eligible for up to the equivalent of six semesters (three years) of full-time study.

For students in vocational training programs, the maximum is four semesters (two years) of full-time study or eight semesters (four years) of part-time study in an approved program.

So apply now. The money you save will be your own.

Alice Murphey, CUNY’s director of financial aid management, has been helping students with tuition issues for more than 30 years.