If you have multiple children, and one set of GI Bill benefits, you've probably wondered about the best way use the GI Bill entitlements. There are many factors to consider: how many children you have in total, if one child is more or less likely to receive other financial assistance, the costs of the different schools, and whether there will be any change in your family's financial status during the college years, such as leaving the military.
Unfortunately, we don't all have crystal balls when our first child starts college. It would be so much easier to plan if we did! Instead, we're left to make best possible guesses as to what will happen in the future. However, all other variables removed, there is one thing that remains consistent: your family will likely be more eligible for need-based aid during years that you have multiple children in college.
Including that information in your overall college financing strategy can be very important. Let's take the simplest possible example of two children, who are two years apart in school. Let's imagine that all the other variables are constant - same merit-based aid, same school costs, same family financial situation. In this case, it makes the most sense to use the GI Bill benefits for the four years when there is only one child in college. During the two years that the family has two children in college, the amount of need-based aid will be higher, and hopefully the schools will fill in with non-loan resources such as grants.
If you have more than two children in school, and staggering years, you can make a similar chart to show your family's situation and identify the years in which it would make the most sense to use the GI Bill benefits.
Again, this is only one part of the equation. There is much more to consider, including the price of the schools, the individual children's likelihood of receiving merit aid, changes to family finances, and other things that are unique to your specific family's situation. Add this idea to your brain and let it stew around with all the other ideas to come up with a GI Bill utilization plan that provides the most benefit to your family as a whole.