By Sarah Landrum
A secondary education is expensive, there’s no question about it. Many decide against pursuing a college education for this very reason. Even if you believe that you can’t afford a higher education, you shouldn’t write off the possibility. Believe it or not, military spouses and family members can receive just as much help as an active-duty service member. There are many programs in place that will offer assistance and educational resources to help you get the most from military education benefits.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill
The GI Bill was modified after 9/11 to include some substantial benefits for military families. Not only did it strengthen the education benefits for military personnel, it also added a provision that allows service members to share their benefits with immediate family members. There are some limitations, of course, but this means that family members can take full advantage of the program.
If the eligible service member has not used any benefits, or only a small portion of them, the rest of the benefits are transferable. In other words, let’s say 12 months of the GI Bill have been used; then the remaining 24 are available to immediate family.
In addition, you can’t just transfer over benefits freely. Service members must have served in the military for at least six years, and if benefits are transferred and used, they are obligated to serve a term of at least four more years.
For more information, visit the official Post-9/11 GI Bill website.
Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts
The Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts program awards up to $4,000 for military spouses that are pursuing an associate’s degree, license, certification or credential for employment.
Of course, there are a few limitations for the program. The active duty service member of the spouse must meet rank requirements – E1-E5, W1-W2 and O1-O2 – and the program of study must be completed within three years of the start date.
Still, this is an exceptional program for anyone with a spouse in the military wishing to pursue a portable career.
For information on the program you can call the hotline at 800-342-9647 or visit the official MyCAA website.
Dependents Education Assistance Program
Spouses of veterans are eligible to receive education and training benefits through the Dependents Education Assistance Program. If awarded, up to 45 months of financial benefits are offered and they can be used for any number of educational programs, including degree and certificate programs, apprenticeship and on-the-job training.
As a military spouse, you may even be eligible for a correspondence course, along with remedial, deficiency and refresher courses, provided the right requirements have been met.
It’s worth noting that this program is also eligible to surviving spouses and family members of service members or veterans who died during active duty. If you’d like more information, visit the official DEA financial program website.
We can’t explore it in full – there’s just too much information and too many programs to sort through – but each military branch has a variety of financial assistance programs in place for military personnel and their families. It doesn’t matter whether you’re connected with the Army, Navy, Marines or Air Force, there is assistance available to you. The best thing to do is to contact your local branch’s education assistance program for more information.
Keep in mind that each branch will have its own sets of rules, requirements and limitations in place. You may or may not have to meet certain eligibility requirements before you can obtain assistance.
Private Scholarships and Grants
As with regular college students pursuing a higher education, military personnel and their families may also be eligible for private scholarships and grants. Often, these private financial assistance programs are offered by companies and parties throughout the country who just want to help. Provided you attend school and achieve your final goal, you generally don’t have to pay back scholarships and grants – they are simply free financial assistance.
There are scholarships and grants out there tailored specifically for military personnel and their families. One such program, the Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship, offers benefits to surviving family members of veterans and service members who died during active duty. Keep in mind, that’s just one of thousands of available programs.
For more information, it’s best to see a financial aid advisor at your school or institute of choice. U.S. Veterans Magazine has put together a pretty lengthy list of scholarships and grants for military personnel and family members.
Finding a Military Friendly School
One of the best resources for continuing your education as a military family member is a military friendly school. These schools are known to support military and their families with programs designed to support their needs. Vista College, for instance, is a Top Military School and offers flexible programs and military benefits. With help obtaining military educational benefits, getting an education is much easier and less stressful than ever before.
State-Funded Benefits and Resources
Finally, there are a whole slew of state-funded benefits available for the families – including children – of veterans who are deceased, MIA, POW or disabled. Some states offer more help than others, while some don’t offer much help at all. You’ll either have to track down your local state’s financial aid program or website for more information, or you can head over to Military.com’s state benefits page.
Keep the state benefits in mind, especially if you find you’re not eligible for some of the other programs listed above.
About the Author
Sarah Landrum is a freelance writer and the founder of Punched Clocks. Having grown up in a military family, Sarah is passionate about helping veterans reach their potential and realize their dreams. She shares advice on all aspects of the job search and career development on her career advice blog and on Twitter @SarahLandrum