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In-State Tuition Versus Out-of-State Tuition Under the GI Bill

There are many ways to use military benefits to pay for higher education. You may attend school using the GI Bill, Veteran Readiness and Employment, and in some cases, the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA) and qualify for in-state tuition rates even if you live out of state at school selection time.

In-state tuition rates are not guaranteed for all military and family members using the GI Bill or other benefits. Much could depend on where you choose to live after school begins.

That said, something called the Veterans Choice Act gives those using qualifying military education benefits some added flexibility.

What follows applies to veterans and their families. Rules in the Veterans Choice Act that affect college state residency requirements do not apply to active duty members or those currently active in the Guard or Reserve.

In-State Versus Out-of-State Tuition

College students are typically charged in-state tuition rates if they are residents of the state the college is located in. In-state tuition is traditionally lower than out-of-state tuition rates. Some states may require students to show proof of residency to qualify for in-state rates.

To continue qualifying for in-state tuition, expect a requirement to live in the state where you attend classes once your coursework begins. Not all states have the same rules but this is fairly consistent.

VA.gov notes that Section 702 of the Veterans Choice Act requires schools to offer in-state tuition to those using GI Bill or other approved programs or risk losing VA support.

Will I Be Charged In-State Tuition When Using the GI Bill?

The Department of Veterans Affairs official site states, “If you’re covered under a GI Bill program or the Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E) program, you may be able to get in-state tuition rates at a public school even if you haven’t lived in the state where the school is located.”

This is made possible under the Veterans Choice Act. Basic eligibility includes the following requirements:

  • You are paid benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty (MGIB-AD), or Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E);
  • You’re a “covered individual” (see below);
  • You will live in the state where the school is located when you start your classes.

Related: How to Transfer the Post-9/11 GI Bill to a Spouse or Dependent

What Does “Covered Individual” Mean?

  • For veterans, being a “covered individual” applies to those who served on active duty for at least 90 days since September 10, 2001.
  • For spouses and dependents, a covered individual uses transferred GI BIll education benefits or the Fry Scholarship when the veteran served on active duty 90 days before death.
  • You are also considered a covered individual if you attend school using benefits through the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA) program.

Can I Lose My Covered Individual Status?

Yes. If you attend school and leave only to re-enroll later, you will not retain covered individual status. VA.gov lists no exceptions other than the normal breaks between courses, semesters, etc.

Can My School Demand Proof of Residency?

Yes. Residency rules are not standardized, and your experience may vary depending on the school, the state, and other variables. VA.gov advises that some states require you to prove your intent to become a resident.

“You may be asked to show that you’re in the process of claiming legal residency by registering to vote, getting a state ID, or getting a state driver’s license.”\

VA.gov also says you may be able to qualify for in-state tuition while you are establishing legal residency. You may be asked to meet one of the following requirements:

  • You must live in the same state as your school or;
  • You must live in the state as your school and prove intent to become a resident; or
  • You must live in the state where your school is located, prove intent to become a resident and do so within the required time.



About the author

Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter/editor for Air Force Television News and the Pentagon Channel. His freelance work includes contract work for Motorola, VALoans.com, and Credit Karma. He is co-founder of Dim Art House in Springfield, Illinois, and spends his non-writing time as an abstract painter, independent publisher, and occasional filmmaker.