posted March 7, 2019
Military spouses have, historically, faced significant barriers when it comes to finding employment. The unpredictability of military life, family responsibilities and difficulty completing education have all been named as reasons that military spouses tend to have lower rates of employment overall than their civilian counterparts. That is all changing, thanks to an increase in programs designed to help military spouses access education and the training that they need to pursue fulfilling careers.
When it comes to educational benefits, military spouses may qualify to use some of their partner’s GI Bill benefits to pay for school. Some schools also offer tuition discounts or credits to military spouses, reducing the cost of attendance. There is also a program designed to help military spouses pay for school: the My Career Advancement Account, or MyCAA.
An Overview of MyCAA
One of the major challenges for any military spouse is the fact that service typically requires families to move every few years. To ensure that they can find employment wherever they are stationed, it is beneficial for military spouses to have careers that are portable; that is, they need training in jobs that can be done anywhere and preferably that are in demand wherever they happen to be.
That’s where MyCAA comes in. The program gives the spouses of junior-level soldiers up to $4,000 in financial assistance to help them train in fields that are in demand and growing, with the idea that having the appropriate training and credentials will help spouses find jobs quickly when they are transferred to different duty stations. The MyCAA account gives spouses up to $2,000 per fiscal year for three years, up to $4,000 total, to help pay for professional licenses, credentials, and education leading to an associate degree. The funds can also be used to pay for graduate-level continuing education coursework required to maintain a license or credential.
If you are eligible for MyCAA funds, you can access them via your MyCAA account. The money is paid directly to the school and will go toward tuition only. In other words, MyCAA funds will not cover fees of any kind, books or materials, courses that aren’t taken for credit, repeat courses, high school completion courses, courses taken for personal enrichment, or examinations, including exams taken for college credit like CLEP. MyCAA funds are also limited to courses taken for a specific program of study, and not general studies, liberal studies or interdisciplinary degrees that do not have a concentration.
Accessing MyCAA Benefits
The first step to accessing MyCAA benefits is to confirm that you are eligible. MyCAA is available to the spouses of service members on active duty in pay grades E-1 to E-5, W-1 to W-2 and O-1 to O-2. Students must be able to start and complete their coursework while their military sponsor is on Title 10 military orders. The program is limited to spouses of those serving in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, as well as those married to members of the National Guard and reserve component in these same pay grades. The program is not available to Coast Guard spouses.
The school must be accredited, and students will need to have a specific course plan in place to earn the credential. Because the school will need to validate course information in order for the funds to be disbursed, it’s important for students to work with an advisor or school representative to confirm that the plan is appropriate and correct. Once students have that plan, they can create an account on MyCAA, where they will submit information about their spouse and their education plans for review. Although there are already more than 3,000 schools and programs approved for MyCAA, students may also request to have a school added.
Once eligibility is confirmed and the plan approved, students may apply for financial assistance within 30 days of the course start date. It is the student’s responsibility to apply to the school, enroll in courses and stay on track with the plan.
To learn more about how Columbia Southern University supports military spouses, visit ColumbiaSouthern.edu.