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Veteran Affairs Provides Tuition Benefit for Study Abroad

The Department of Veteran Affairs has been very busy processing requests from military personnel across the country looking to receive reimbursement or payment for college tuition. With implementation of the Yellow Ribbon program, the VA office has had a difficult time keeping up with demand but they are starting to see light at the end of the tunnel and it appears that they may be better prepared for the upcoming fall semester than they were this time last year.

In the past, it was unclear if students were able to receive VA education benefits if they planned on studying abroad. It seemed liked a good idea but the VA was not experienced enough with the various study abroad models to make a clear cut decision. Since many students usually intend on taking a semester (or year) to enrich themselves by studying abroad and being immersed in a different culture while in college, the VA outlined the educational benefits that would now be available to these students

As you can imagine, the study abroad benefit does come with a few catches though…

  1. The courses that are taken in the study abroad program must carry credit hours that will apply to their area of study.
  2. Programs where the “host school” is internationally based must be approved prior to the benefit being available.
  3. Lastly, the VA can not pay any benefits for study abroad unless the student is REQUIRED to study abroad as part of their program (this one is probably going to be the stopping block for many).

The following are a few different scenarios of how the study abroad program can be billed and then how the VA would in turn provide monetary benefit:

(1)The student pays tuition and fees to it’s home institution as though they were a student on the campus and the school arranges (financially) for the student to participate in a study abroad program. These type of arrangements usually come in the form of direct exchanges (a student from the foreign school comes to the domestic campus and the domestic student studies at the foreign campus. No money exchanges hands – just the students).

Utilizing this scenario, the following are how the VA benefits would apply:

  • VA could pay the home school’s tuition, up to the in-state maximum allowed.(Room and board charges cannot be included in tuition costs)
  • VA could provide a monthly housing allowance to the student, if the student is enrolled more than ½-time that the student uses to help pay room and board costs
  • VA could provide books and supplies stipend
  • VA would pay no charges directly to the host school
  • VA could not pay for any fees specifically due to participation in the study abroad program unless study abroad was mandatory for the specific degree.
  • For schools that charge a comprehensive fee that includes the home school’s tuition, they would have to break out the fee and report the charged tuition
  • VA cannot pay airfare
  • VA cannot pay amenities fees or host school fees

(2) The student’s home institution charges a special study abroad fee along with tuition and fees to the student.

Utilizing this scenario, the following are how the VA benefits would apply:

  • VA could pay the tuition and fees, up to the national average in-state maximum tuition and fee charges (Room and board charges cannot be included in tuition costs). Fees the VA can pay are fees students that regularly attend the institution must pay—not fees specific to study abroad students.
  • VA could provide a monthly housing allowance to the student, if the student is enrolled more than ½-time that the student uses to help pay room and board costs
  • VA could provide books and supplies stipend
  • VA would pay tuition directly to host school
  • VA could not pay for any fees the home school charges for study abroad fees
  • VA cannot pay airfare


(3) The student enrolls directly into an International School.

Utilizing this scenario, the following are how the VA benefits would apply:

  • VA could pay the tuition and fees, up to the national average in-state maximum tuition and fee charges (Room and board charges cannot be included in tuition costs). Fees that the VA can pay are fees students that regularly attend the institution must pay—not fees specific to study abroad students.
  • VA could provide a monthly housing allowance to the student, if the student is enrolled more than ½-time that the student uses to help pay room and board costs
  • VA could provide books and supplies stipend
  • VA would pay tuition directly to host school
  • VA could not pay for any fees the home school charges for study abroad fees
  • VA cannot pay airfare

Hope this information is helpful for GI Bill recipients. If you need further assistance or want to apply for educational benefits, you can contact the VA’s education sector via phone at 888-442-4551 or you can visit them on the web.

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