The inherent nature of military life can pose unique challenges for military spouses seeking higher education, both logistically and financially. However, there are a number of ways to swerve around the financial speed bumps that may stand in the way.
Utilizing the various financial assistance programs that are available to military spouses can set the course towards the degree you desire.
Post-9/11 GI Bill
We recently discussed the benefits of the Post-9/11 GI Bill for the younger generation of military students in our post, “Educational Assistance Programs for Military Students ”, but the transferability of these amazing benefits applies to the military spouse as well.
If your service member is eligible for the benefits afforded under this program, they can choose to have them transferred to a family member. There has been much discussion lately about changes to the transfer policy, however, the guidelines that are now in place were written into the original rules but fell under a waiver or special rules that have now expired. Under the current guidelines, if a service member chooses to transfer their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to a family member, they must have served at least 6 years and agree to an additional four years of service.
The requirements for transfer of Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits are as follows:
A: You are eligible to transfer benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill if you meet one or more of the following program start date requirements:
- You are a member of the Armed Forces (active duty or Selected Reserve, officer or enlisted) and were in the service on 1 August 2009 or joined after that date.
- You are a Uniformed Service member of the Public Health Service (PHS) and were in the service on 1 August 2011 or joined after that date.
- You are a Uniformed Service member of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and were in the service on 1 September 2011 or joined after that date.
- If you meet one of the above program start date requirements, you must also meet one or more of the following requirements:
1. You have at least six years of service in the Uniformed Services on the date you elect to transfer the Post-9/11 GI Bill program and agree to serve an additional four years in the Uniformed Services from that date.
2. You have at least ten cumulative years of service in the Uniformed Services (active duty and/or Selected Reserve) on the date of election, are precluded by either standard policy (service or DoD) or statute from committing to four additional years and agree to serve for the maximum amount of time allowed by such policy or statute. (Courtesy of milConnect )
Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts (MyCAA) can assist military spouses with the burden of education costs. The Department of Defense reopened the popular MyCAA program in October 2010, with several key changes in eligibility and dollar amounts. The benefit is available to spouses of active duty service members in pay grades E1-E5, W1-W2, and O1-O2, including the spouses of activated Guard and Reserve members within those ranks. Spouses of Guard and Reserve members must be able to start and complete their courses while their sponsor is on Title 10 orders.
MyCAA provides a maximum education benefit of $4,000 along with an annual cap of $2,000 for military spouses in need of professional credentials. Waivers are available for spouses pursuing licensure or certification up to the total maximum assistance of $4,000. The program requires military spouses to finish their program of study within three years from the start date of the first course. It is limited to associate degrees, certification and licensures.
Military Branch Programs
A few of the individual military branches offer tuition assistance programs tailored to meet the needs of its members and families, however, many programs have been eliminated due to current budget constraints.
- Army – The Army offers financial assistance for spouses through their “Spouse Education Assistance Program ”.
- Navy/Marine Corps – The Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society (NMCRS) offers interest free loans and scholarships for the education of military spouses.
- Air Force – The Spouse Tuition Assistance Program for Air Force spouses ended in July 2012 due to budget constraints.
Valuable resources bear repeating, so while we mentioned the Scholly App in our last blog post, we wanted to mention it again as a resource for military spouses too.
While the Scholly App (available on iTunes Google play) is not military specific, it is a great resource tool to tap into the numerous scholarship opportunities that exist nationwide.
This tool allows you to set a criteria for the type of scholarships you may qualify for, however, the sorting tool does seem to have its flaws. Nonetheless, this is a great place to see the vast opportunities that are available for financial assistance.
Valuable features include samples of winning scholarship essays that will provide students with a guideline on how to author their own winning essay.
Think Outside of the Box
There are a number of companies, corporations and philanthropic organizations that bestow scholarships and financial aid upon military families. Look into local VFW posts, charities and companies to see what valuable scholarships might be available to further your educational aspirations.