posted May 8, 2018
Military spouses make many sacrifices for their partners’ dedication to service. From months spent apart from during deployments to regular long-distance moves—not to mention the struggles that can come from handling all the daily household responsibilities on their own, typically on a limited income, military spouses work hard and deserve a great deal of credit for their commitment to their partners’ service.
It’s in acknowledgement of those sacrifices that military spouses have access to a number of educational benefits that can help defray a significant portion of the cost of their college education. Whether they wish to further their own careers, start or finish a degree program, there are plenty of options for military spouses.
Keep in mind, of course, that funding for different programs can change from year to year, and there is no guarantee that all these programs will be fully funded going forward. But for now, military spouses can get help paying for education through the following programs.
Post 9/11 GI Bill®
Most people think of the GI Bill ® as a source of educational assistance for soldiers and veterans. It’s the most generous tuition assistance program, covering the equivalent of a full degree program at a public university. However, what many don’t realize is that service members can transfer some or all their GI Bill® benefits to their spouse or children. In order to transfer these funds, the service member must have given at least six years total of service, and agree to an additional four years of service after the funds are transferred. The funds can be used for a single person or split among multiple family members. The Post 9/11 GI Bill® can potentially provide tens of thousands of dollars, so it’s worthwhile for military spouses to explore this option.
Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts, commonly known as MyCAA, offers tuition assistance of up to $4,000 over two years for spouses who are working toward a license, certification, or associate degree in a “portable” field or occupation. In other words, if the job that you are looking to do can be done virtually anywhere (such as nursing), then you can receive tuition assistance from the U.S. military. The idea behind this program is to ensure that military spouses can continue working no matter where the family is transferred, thereby limiting the disruption to their income and career. MyCAA benefits are limited to those whose spouses are in ranks E1-E5, W1-W2, or O1-O2, meaning that those with higher ranking spouses will not qualify, but for those who are just starting out, this money can make a significant difference.
Branch Specific Programs
In addition to the GI Bill® and MyCAA funds, military spouses may also qualify for tuition assistance from the specific brand of the military in which their spouse serves. The Air Force, Army, and Navy all offer their own tuition assistance programs; Marine Corps spouses can access funds via the Navy program. The details vary; the Navy program offers an interest free loan of up to 50 percent of tuition costs (with a cap of $3,000) for spouses stationed overseas, while the Air Force will cover up to 50 percent of unmet needs after other sources of assistance are applied, with a cap of $1,500.
Survivors and Dependents Educational Assistance Program (DEA)
In the unfortunate event that a service member has died, been killed in action, gone missing, been captured, or been permanently totally disabled, his or her spouse can qualify for up to 45 months of education assistance through the DEA. These funds can be used for college tuition, certification programs, on-the-job training, or apprenticeships.
In addition to military-sponsored tuition assistance programs, there are several additional options for military spouses who want to go back to school. For instance, many colleges and universities will offer a tuition discount for military spouses; Columbia Southern University offers military spouses and children a 10 percent discount on tuition, for example. There are also scholarship and grant programs specifically designed for military spouses. CSU offers military spouse educational benefits via the “Hero Behind the Hero” program, which recognizes the sacrifices made by military families. Other local and military-focused organizations, businesses, and state governments also offer scholarships for military spouses.
Spouses are an important part of the U.S. military, and it’s important to recognize their contributions and help them achieve their goals. There are plenty of ways that spouses can further their education without going into debt or sacrificing the family finances. Check out our military resource center to learn more.
GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government website at www.benefits.va.gov/gibill.