Female College Student

What Is The Yellow Ribbon Program?

We’ve got some great news – the Yellow Ribbon Program is back for 2016, and better than ever before!

For those of you who are new to the program, Yellow Ribbon Benefits are sometimes referred to in each of the following ways:

  • The GI Bill Yellow Ribbon Program
  • The VA Yellow Ribbon Program
  • The Yellow Ribbon GI Education Enhancement Program
  • Yellow Ribbon Scholarships

Whatever you want to call it, the important thing is that Yellow Ribbon Program benefits can save you tens of thousands of dollars in education costs.

What Does It Do?

The Yellow Ribbon Program was created to help military students cover any educational costs that exceed the maximum rates offered by standard Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits, which is especially important in 2016 since college costs are rising.

Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits pay up to 100% of in-state public school tuition, but only provide a maximum of $17,500 per year for private colleges and universities, which doesn’t always quite cover the total cost.

Enter the Yellow Ribbon Program

For example, if you want to attend a school with an annual tuition and fees rate of more than $17,500 (virtually any private school, and out-of-state tuition at pretty much any public university), then you might be able to leverage Yellow Ribbon Program benefits to prevent having to pay for those extra tuition and fees costs yourself.

Yellow Ribbon benefits are typically used to pay for tuition and fees at private schools (which have higher costs than public schools) or at public schools when you’re attending as a nonresident student (since nonresident tuition is typically tens of thousands of dollars more expensive).

The Yellow Ribbon Program isn’t available for as many types of educational training as the standard Post 9/11 GI Bill though – it can only be used if you’re attending a “Degree Granting Institution”.

How Does The YRP Work?

Qualifying institutions (called “yellow ribbon schools” or “yellow ribbon colleges”) volunteer to take part by signing a Yellow Ribbon Agreement with the VA under which they determine how much tuition and fees they will contribute to cover your out of pocket costs, and in turn the VA matches whatever amount the school is willing to pay.

In this way, the school and the VA are able to cover your out of pocket costs, saving you from having to spend any of your own money to get that degree.

It’s an incredible program, and certainly worth your consideration.

Yellow Ribbon Program Eligibility

To qualify for the Yellow Ribbon Program in 2016, you must:

  • Be entitled to the maximum benefit rate (based on service requirements), or be a designated transferee (dependent) of someone who qualified for the maximum benefit rate
  • Not be on active duty, or be the spouse transferee of an active duty servicemember
  • Attend a school that has agreed to participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program, and which has signed a Yellow Ribbon Agreement with the VA
  • Attend a school that hasn’t already offered Yellow Ribbon Program benefits to more students that they agreed to serve in their participation agreement (schools and the VA have to agree on how many students will be provided the benefits, so you’ll want to apply and get your benefits as early as possible in order to make sure that you don’t get left behind)
  • Have your school certify your enrollment to the VA, and provide them with the required Yellow Ribbon Program information

Keep in mind, however, that even though active duty servicemembers and their spouses aren’t eligible to receive Yellow Ribbon Program benefits, there’s an exemption to the rule that allows child transferees of active duty servicemembers to be eligible for YRP benefits if their parent is qualified at the 100% rate.

How to Qualify for YRP Benefits

There are three simple ways to qualify for the Yellow Ribbon Program:

  • Serve a 36 month aggregate period of active duty after September 10th, 2001
  • Receive an honorable discharge from active duty for a service connected disability, after having served at least 30 continuous days after September 10th, 2001
  • Be a dependent eligible for Transfer of Entitlement under the Post 9/11 GI Bill and be the transferee of a veteran who qualified for benefits at the 100% rate

Yellow Ribbon Program Schools

As we mentioned above, not all schools are participants in the Yellow Ribbon Program, but many of the big, well-known and well-respected colleges and universities across the county are.

There are a variety of ways to find out whether or not your school, or a school that you’re considering attending, is a Yellow Ribbon school. Here are your options:

  • Search the VA’s list of Yellow Ribbon schools for 2015-2016 academic year here
  • Call your school or your potential school’s admissions advisers to ask if they’re a Yellow Ribbon Program participant
  • Google your school’s name, plus Yellow Ribbon Program (example: “University of Arizona Yellow Ribbon Program
  • Post in the comments section below and we’ll let you know whether or not your school participates

What is a Yellow Ribbon School?

Schools can only be considered Yellow Ribbon Program participants once they’ve signed the official Yellow Ribbon Agreement, which requires that they:

  • Provide contributions to eligible students who apply for Yellow Ribbon Program benefits on a first-come, first-serve basis
  • Offer contributions for each participating student in the form of a grant, scholarship or other form of tuition assistance
  • Clearly state the amount of money that each student is eligible to receive during each academic year
  • Agree to a maximum number of students who can receive contributions during each academic year

If a school hasn’t already completed all of these steps, they won’t be found on the VA’s Yellow Ribbon Program participating schools list, and you won’t be able to receive any YRP benefits from them or the VA.

How Much Money Can I Get?

Unfortunately, this isn’t a question that we can answer for you.

The only way to find out how much money you’ll receive in Yellow Ribbon Program benefits is to contact your school and ask them directly.

Only they can tell you whether or not you’ll be able to participate in the program and how much tuition assistance will be provided to you each year.

How Do I Apply For YRP Benefits?

There’s only one way to do it – contact your School Certifying Official and request the required forms.

Other Resources

For more information, check out the following links:


Tim's experience battling crushing student loan debt led him to create the website Forget Student Loan Debt, where he offers advice on dealing with excessive student loans and advocates a cautious approach to funding education costs via borrowed money.