When military members enlist, they are offered college education benefits through the Post 9/11 GI Bill program. But military spouses may also be eligible for certain education benefits because of their status as a military dependent. This includes grant and scholarship programs that can fund the pursuit of a college education, certificate or licensure program.
Many military spouses find pursuing a career to be difficult due to the strains of military life including moves and deployments. Some may also find that it is hard to complete a program at a particular school when moving is always on the horizon. Thanks to online programs, this no longer needs to be a concern for military spouses. In addition, there are multiple financial aid programs available to military spouses to fund their educational pursuits.
Post 9/11 GI Bill
Military members who are eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill have the ability to transfer benefits to their spouse or dependent children. If the military member is covered under a former Montgomery GI Bill program, he can elect to transfer his benefits to the Post 9/11 GI Bill program.
It is important to note that the Post 9/11 GI Bill can only be transferred upon reenlistment after the military member has completed at least six years of service. He can then choose to transfer all or part of his benefits. Benefits can also be split between a spouse and children if he chooses.
While the military member is on active duty, the military spouse is not eligible to collect the housing allowance that is generally offered to Veterans. Outside of that, the benefits are the same.
MyCAA (My Career Advancement Account) is a program offered to military spouses of certain lower ranks, both officer and enlisted, including E1 to E5, W1 to W2 and O1 to O2. This program provides a total education of benefit of $4,000 with an annual cap of $2,000. Military spouses can use the money towards advancing their education to create a portable career. The program funds can only be used towards associate degrees, certificate programs and certain licenses. Any program of study funded with the program must be completed within three years of starting the first class. This program has been in existence for some time but will open again under these new guidelines on October 25, 2010.
National Military Family Association
Every year, the NMFA gives away thousands of dollars in scholarships. Military spouses from all branches are eligible for these awards which are generally $1,000 and payable directly to the school of choice. In order to be eligible, spouses must write an essay and complete a questionnaire on the NMFA website during the open period.
Thanks USA is an annual scholarship program that awards thousands in scholarship dollars to military spouses and military children of active duty military. This application process generally opens in April of each year. Preference for this scholarship is to dependents of those who have been wounded in action or killed in action though others not falling under these requirements have also been awarded scholarships. The scholarships vary in amount up to a maximum of $3,000 per recipient. The award is based on financial need, academic record, community service activities and the answers the applicant provides to the program through its questionnaire.
Each branch of the military has an emergency relief program that funds immediate needs of military members through grants and loans. Along with this service, many of these programs also offer scholarships to military family members, including spouses. This is need-based assistance that is also offered to spouses of retired military members in some branches. For the Army, the program opens to applications in December of each year.
On Post Scholarships
While it can vary from one post to the next, there are generally multiple opportunities for scholarships available for military spouses. Interested military spouses should check with the commissary, the thrift shop and the spouses club on post. Also, the education office on post may also have a listing of scholarships and grants that are available for military spouses.
Unit Specific Scholarships
Some units and family readiness groups will have their own scholarship programs for family members of those in the unit. This can vary widely from one unit to the next. But it can be to your advantage to check into this avenue as the competition is typically much less than other programs. Along with the active duty unit, some also have memorial foundations or other Veteran groups for the unit that offer scholarships as well. These scholarships usually don’t have any financial need requirements and only require that the recipient be the family member of someone who served within that particular unit.
With the new military spouse residency act, military spouses are to be treated the same as in-state residents for tuition purposes. In the past, due to frequent moves, military spouses were penalized due to the fact that they were never in a location long enough to establish residency and complete an educational program. This new act prevents that from happening and allows colleges to charge all military spouses the in-state tuition rate regardless of their residency status within that state.
The college may also have a listing of scholarships and grants that are available specifically for military spouses. This is particularly true for military spouses of those who have been wounded in action or killed in action. The state itself may also offer programs for spouses and children in these categories.
Public Health Scholarships and Grants
It’s possible to offset some of the costs of earning a public health degree by tapping into a variety of available public health scholarships. Application processes and award amounts vary from program to program, but students may apply for multiple scholarship simultaneously. Visit Public Health Online for more information.
Military spouses who wish to pursue higher educational goals should not let the fact that they are married to someone who serves stop them from achieving their dreams. There are numerous programs available to assist with the cost of a college or technical school education. In addition to military specific scholarships and grants, military spouses should also apply for federal and state aid by completing the FASFA application online. The school financial aid office or the education office on post can assist in completing this application.