How to Use Your GI Bill to Study Abroad

by Dominic James Fusco

For men and women who have served in the United States military, travel is nothing new. Many veterans have lived abroad for extended periods of time, often not even deciding when and where they get to go, all for the sake of their fellow Americans living safely and soundly back at home. 

Solider walking with children in the Middle East

Such sacrifice is honored by the GI bill, which enables veterans to return home with a wide range of benefits at their disposal, which includes the opportunity to pursue higher education at no cost. Through the GI Bill, veterans can enroll in degree programs and have the majority of their educational costs, ranging from tuition to textbooks to housing, covered. So what if a veteran wants to use their GI benefits to study abroad? 

Studying abroad is something that every student should do once in their lives, regardless of vocation or academic interests. For veterans, study abroad can mean the chance to finally travel freely and rediscover the world under much different circumstances in a far more light-hearted, enjoyable way (which they deserve even more after serving!).

Despite study abroad being entirely possible for veterans, the bureaucracy of how to use a GI Bill to study abroad can be a bit confusing. Therefore, to help all of our veterans with an interest in study abroad out, below we have answers some of the most commonly asked questions about using GI Bill benefits to study abroad: 

What educational benefits am I entitled to under the GI Bill?

This depends on the length of your service. At minimum, veterans who have served for three months are entitled to 40 percent of the available benefits. On the other hand, at the maximum, veterans who have served for at least three years, or have been discharged, are entitled to 100 percent of the educational benefits allotted under the GI Bill. 

When it comes to education, veterans are entitled to reimbursement for the costs of tuition, books, and living expenses. The GI Bill will pay full tuition for veterans who are studying at in-state public colleges and will usually cover at least $20,000 in tuition for enrollment at private universities. In addition, veterans can receive a book stipend of $1,000 per year and a monthly living allowance, which varies depending on the location. 

American Soldier Studying

Under the new Post-9/11 GI Bill, Soldier-students will soon have access to a greatly expanded array of education options. Photo by Spc. Ida Tate on USA Army Europe Images, Flickr

How do I use my GI Bill to study abroad? 

There are a few different ways you can use your GI bill to help fund your study abroad experience.

The first is to simply enroll in a foreign university and have the Veteran’s Association (VA) directly pay your tuition and academic fees abroad. Most GI benefits will transfer abroad to cover full time coursework at a foreign university, pending the VA’s approval of the degree program. 

Another way to study abroad is by attending a study abroad program provided by your home university. Many American colleges have partnerships with or international programs based at universities located around the world, in which case the VA will  be able to pay your normal tuition fees to your home university, who will be responsible for transferring any required fees to your international university..

Lastly, the VA can also support study abroad when it is required for you to complete your degree from your home university. Normally the GI Bill does not cover fees directly associated with a study abroad program or third party provider, but in this case they will incorporate the costs of study abroad into regular tuition fees, since it is a requirement to graduate. 

What are the limitations on using my GI Bill to study abroad?

As previously stated, the VA cannot pay for any fees directly related to a study abroad program or third party provider under the GI Bill. This means that many specialized study abroad programs that are separate from your home university will not be covered by GI benefits, and any extra fees charged by your home university will also not be covered.

The VA will only cover the costs of studying abroad at a foreign university up to the national maximum tuition and fee rate observed at home. If your host university in another country has an expensive tuition rate for international students, this could prove to be a hindrance to how much the GI Bill can help you out. 

Additionally, while the VA can still help compensate you for textbooks, housing, and other living expenses while studying abroad, they will not cover the price of airfare, which can be a pretty significant cost.

To look into other means by which you might supplement your GI Bill benefits, be sure to check out GoAbroad’s Scholarship Directory. 

View of the Amalfi Coast in Italy

What are some popular destinations and subject areas for Veterans studying abroad? 

Here’s the fun part! You can go pretty much anywhere and study anything utilizing the GI Bill, provided that your home university has an arrangement where credits can transfer back to your home university.

Some of the most popular countries for study abroad range everywhere from Italy to Australia to Brazil, and everywhere in between. Studying abroad is a fantastic opportunity to live in that country you’ve always wanted to for a semester or even full year.

The only question that remains is where will your GI Bill benefits take you?