As I mentioned, it’s a good deal but complicated. I would just hate for you to get your heart set on certain schools only to learn later that one or more aren’t fully covered by your benefits and you can’t afford them after all. My own daughter knows that we aren’t willing to pay extra beyond the GI Bill and YRP, so she looks up schools on the VA’s YRP website. If the school isn’t fully covered with GIB/YRP, it’s dropped from her list before she can become too attached (sorry, UW!).
Oh! Another important thing about the Yellow Ribbon Program - some colleges offer only a few scholarships, some only for certain departments/schools, some for graduate programs only, some have different amounts for different majors… The number of scholarships available will be listed along with what type of student/major qualifies.
Google “Find a yellow ribbon school” to get the VA’s search tool. Note that the amount listed for a school is the amount the school puts up; the VA will match that amount. For instance, Rochester Institute of Technology lists something around $13,500 for an unlimited number of undergraduates in any department. The VA will also put up $13,500, for a total of $27,000 in YRP scholarship funds each year. Add that to the $26,000 from a full GI Bill = all tuition is covered.
R&B is a whole other (though slightly less complicated) calculation based on the monthly housing allowance of an E5 and the school’s ZIP code. There’s a calculator for that, too, but I can’t find the link on my phone right now. Let me know if you want links for info to any of this and I’ll try to post them tomorrow. My bet is that you can find a bunch of schools you’ll love that are fully covered.
The most important thing is to know what benefits you qualify for, which is something your sponsor (parent who earned the benefits) should confirm before you start looking. The YRP is separate from the GI Bill and also has qualifying rules that you can find on the VA’s YRP page; they are fairly simple, though.
If your parents are willing to pay above and beyond what’s covered by the two programs, that will open up even more schools for you. Just do the research and then the math for each school very carefully. Any merit scholarships are subtracted from the amount the VA puts up, so they won’t help cover any “extra” tuition unless the merit amount exceeds the VA’s match.
Good luck! Leaving college with no debt would be a pretty awesome way to start adult life.