College Connect: Jumping into financial risk when benefits changed

Posted By sabew

By Robert W. Johnson

In the Army, working in a lab full of electronic geeks at a foreign base full of Airborne Rangers, it was not uncommon to hear someone in my unit say: “Why would I want to jump out of a perfectly good airplane?”

There were injuries in jumps all the time. Sometimes one guys parachute would “steal the air” from the guy above him and his ‘chute would collapse. Once a pilot missed his drop zone and let troops land in a rock-strewn valley. A particularly big deal only because a Lieutenant Colonel broke his ankle.

I mention this here because leaving the University of Missouri School of Journalism to instead attend New York University on the GI Bill is a lot like jumping out of a perfectly good airplane. From a financial perspective, moving from mid-Missouri to Manhattan may be the greatest cost of living increase from one point to another in the United States. There may be others, but if so, they can’t be by much.

NYU began offering graduate students the Yellow Ribbon Program in the fall of 2010 and I decided to transfer in January 2011. It was difficult getting clear answers from the VA on when the GI Bill housing allowance for New York City would start, when my NYU enrollment would commence, and whether or not I would be paid over breaks during a transfer.

This is currently what happens during a transfer from one school to another on Chapter 33 – the GI Bill provision. I was paid over break at the Missouri rate, it was difficult to calculate as the dust was still settling from the summer 2010 dropped class I wrote of in my last post, but a partial payment did show up in early January.

BAH, or basic allowance for housing, are a month behind enrollment, so that left part of January and all of February rent on me. BAH, and the book stipend did not arrive until March. It took over seven weeks for the VA to process the transfer paperwork from the time my papers were submitted by NYU.

I’d never attended a private university and though I knew it was pricey, at over $1,200 per credit hour, my tuition statement read a sobering $20,083. Even a small mistake in my calculations with a number that large could be a real problem. The school assured me that their Yellow Ribbon allowance was going to be enough to cover it.

It did. My tuition got paid a couple days after my BAH arrived in March. The highest in-state credit hour rate of $1,010 was paid and the Yellow Ribbon money from the VA and the school covered the remaining balance perfectly.

NYU had waited that long without complaint and when they got their money, they promptly refunded my $250 intent-to-enroll deposit. So everything turned out OK.

If only the VA had told me they all but cancelled private school tuition payments at NYU four days before I moved into my Manhattan apartment. — but more about that in my next post – STAY TUNED!

Robert W. Johnson is a graduate school at New York University and a Army veteran. He got married in fall 2010.

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