The federal government provides a wide range of helpful options and Florida offers additional support.

Higher education undoubtedly helps those who have served in the military to land a job in the civilian sector after separating from service, and men and women who have served in the United States armed forces are entitled to numerous educational benefits, authorized by both federal and state-level legislation. Florida provides additional assistance to veterans pursuing an education.

Florida GI Bill: More Veterans Educational Benefits

As part of a “Florida GI Bill” signed into law in March 2014, the state of Florida offers two key educational benefits that extend those provided by federal programs, making it a top “Welcome Home” state for veterans and their families. [Information derived from 
2015 FDVA Benefits Guide]

1) Florida waives out-of-state tuition fees for all honorably discharged veterans through the “Congressman C.W. Bill Young Tuition Waiver Program.” This means that if you are a veteran from another state and are accepted into a Florida state college or university, you will qualify for in-state tuition rates, as long as you reside in the state of Florida while pursuing your degree.

2) The state waives undergraduate tuition for state universities, community colleges, and career and technical schools for recipients of the Purple Heart or combat decorations superior in precedence to the Purple Heart. For more information, call 850-245-0407.

Florida offers educational benefits that extend those provided by federal programs, making it a top “Welcome Home” state for veterans and their families.

Florida residents who are active duty or honorably discharged members of the Armed Forces who served on or after Sept. 11, 2001, are degree-seeking students and have unmet financial needs may be eligible to receive funding from the Honorably Discharged Graduate Assistance Program. Funds are intended to assist active duty and honorably discharged members of the Armed Forces pay for living expenses during holiday and semester breaks.

Florida also provides four-year college educational opportunities for dependent children and spouses of veterans who died from a service connected disability or who are 100 percent service-connected permanent and total disabled veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces. For more information, call toll free 888-827-2004. Dependent children of service members Missing In Action or Prisoners of War may also be eligible for tuition benefits.

As of 2012, Florida State Colleges and Universities offering priority course registration for students provide priority course registration to veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces who are receiving GI Bill educational benefits. The benefit also applies to spouses and dependent children receiving GI Bill benefits. Florida State Colleges and Universities also allow eligible current and former Armed Forces members to earn academic college credit for college-level training and education acquired in the military. Interested parties should consult local campuses for details.

In 2013, the Florida Legislature passed legislation that states that honorably discharged veterans who were inducted into the U.S. Armed Forces prior to completing their high school education can be awarded a State of Florida High School Diploma. For more information, call 850-245-0446 or visit the high school diplomas for veterans page in the Florida Department of Education site.

Veterans Florida Entrepreneurship Program

Veterans Florida, a non-profit corporation created by the State of Florida in 2014, has spearheaded an innovative entrepreneurship program that teaches veterans how to launch and operate their own business.

The program is now accepting applications. In December, 2015, four state universities signed on to teach the curriculum—the University of West Florida in Pensacola, FL (the program’s host partner); Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, FL; Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, FL; and the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, FL. And in January, 2016 an esteemed community college joined these universities in offering the program—Hillsborough Community College in Plant City, FL.

To provide comprehensive support to veterans, the entrepreneurship program incorporates three phases extending from basic instruction to mentorship.

Phase I: A seven week online phase teaching the basics of entrepreneurship.
Phase II: Six-days of in-class training to be held on weekends at one of five participating institutions of higher education will prepare participants for all elements of entrepreneurship.
Phase III: Six-months of mentorship and follow-up support to help the veterans launch and run their business.

“This education will empower the next generation of great veteran entrepreneurs to make lasting contributions to the state’s economy,” says Bobby Carbonell, Veterans Florida Executive Director.

For more information or to apply for the Veterans Florida Entrepreneurship Program click here.

Florida Colleges and Universities Support Veterans

Three Florida schools were among the top 25 in Military Times’ 2016 Best for Vets Colleges ranking—University of South Florida, St. Petersburg College and Florida State University. These higher learning institutions incorporate a variety of benefits that help student vets succeed, from Veterans Offices to academic support services and extracurricular activities that give veterans a sense of purpose and camaraderie similar to what they experienced during their military service.

Florida makes it easy for veterans to get the education and training they need to develop a career.

Federal Veterans Educational Benefits

The Post-9/11 GI Bill, which took effect in 2009, provides the most generous roster of education perks, and they are administered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. It offers financial support for college and training for veterans, active-duty service men and women, and in some instances, their family members too.

Additional federal programs providing educational benefits for veterans include the Montgomery GI Bill, the Rural Benefit and Yellow Ribbon programs, and the Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship.

Post-9/11 GI Bill Benefits

Those who served in the armed services after Sept. 10, 2001 are eligible for the post-9/11 GI Bill Benefits, which, in general, pays up to 100 percent of tuition and fees for in-state public schools, as well as a $1,000 stipend for books and supplies, plus a monthly housing allowance (BAH) based on the zip code of the location of the school you attend. Estimate your BAH benefits here by entering your zip code.

Benefits are based on the length of service and the number of credits you’re taking. To qualify you must have at least 90 days of active duty, and to receive 100 percent tuition, you must have accumulated a minimum of 36 months of active duty; payments are prorated for those who have served less time. Applicants generally have up to 15 years after their last period of active duty to use Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.

To make the most of your GI Bill benefits and decide which program you qualify for, refer to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs GI Bill Benefits Comparison tool.

Tuition Rates for Veterans

If you attend a public school, the Post-9/11 GI Bill will only reimburse the in-state tuition and fees rate, even if the school considers you an out-of-state student.

Some states, however, consider all veterans as in-state students—Florida is one. Learn more about Florida veterans benefits here. (Also see the Florida GI Bill section above.)

Montgomery GI Bill

The Montgomery GI Bill provides financial assistance for 10 years after leaving service to honorably discharged veterans who enlisted after June 30, 1985, and elected to participate within the first 12 months of service. For more information, call toll free 888-442-4551.

Rural Benefit

Certain veterans who relocate from highly rural areas to attend college may be eligible for a one-time $500 payment to help defer costs associated with relocation. View current maximum tuition and rural benefit rates here.

The Yellow Ribbon Program

For those attending a private college, the GI Bill caps annual payments for tuition and fees at about $20,000. However, veterans may be eligible for additional financial support through the Yellow Ribbon program, in which colleges participate voluntarily. The program allows approved US institutions of higher learning and the VA to partially or fully fund tuition and expenses that go beyond GI Bill limits.

Find a list of Florida schools currently participating in the Yellow Ribbon Program here on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website.

Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship

Qualifying children of service members who die in the line of duty after September 10, 2001 are eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill. For more details, read through this dedicated page about the Fry Scholarship.