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Financial Aid For Military Spouses (Part 2)

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Part 1 of this article(smokedsalmon) covered financial aid options which are available to everyone.  As military spouses, we face unique challenges in our educational pursuits; fortunately, we also have access to unique resources to help fund our educations, such as Career Advancement Accounts and a number of scholarships specifically for military spouses or other family members.

MyCAA

The Spouse Career Advancement Account (MyCAA) technically only pays for coursework leading to a license, certification, or associate degree, and many spouses with their sights set on a bachelor’s degree tend to overlook MyCAA as a result.  This is a mistake!  It can help you get even further than your associate degree.

Tuition and fees are often substantially less expensive at community colleges than at four-year institutions, and for the first year or two of your degree plan, you will be taking essentially the same classes, so why pay more (or why pay at all when you can let DoD cover most of it)?  Go ahead and get the associate degree, and consider it a stepping stone toward your bachelor’s.  It can improve the affordability and portability of your education.

In addition to reducing the cost of your education, having your credits packaged in the form of an associate degree may make them easier and more likely to transfer in the event you change schools.  Despite being equivalent in credit hours, a completed associate degree looks better than just a partially-finished bachelor’s degree to potential employers, so it can also make you more employable while you finish your education.

For more information on using MyCAA, check out this article.

Your Military Branch

Each branch of the military has specific scholarship opportunities for spouses, either through the branch’s relief/aid agency or through an unaffiliated private scholarship association.

Most of the scholarships, especially those offered by aid/relief agencies, have specific criteria for schools to be eligible for scholarship funding.  Pay attention to these requirements; it is a good idea to be familiar with them before you choose a school, partially for scholarship eligibility but also because choosing an approved school may help ensure that you are getting a degree from an accredited, reputable institution.

When applying for any scholarship or financial assistance, pay close attention to deadlines; be sure that you plan ahead and apply on time, and remember that earlier is usually better.  Each of the scholarship program websites below contains detailed information on deadlines and other application requirements.

Other Scholarship Programs

Many private scholarship programs are available for military spouses; some of these  are also available to spouses of National Guard members, Reserve members, and veterans.

  •  The National Military Family Association awards Joanne Holbrook Patton Military Spouse Scholarships not just to active duty spouses, but also to spouses of National Guard and Reserve members and military retirees.  These scholarships are for up to $1,000 and may be used for any educational pursuit at any level, including GED, ESL classes, vocational training, certifications, associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees, and graduate or professional degrees.
  • The Pat Tillman Foundation offers Tillman Military Scholarships to active-duty service members, veterans, and their spouses who are enrolled full-time in college; students taking online courses are still eligible.  The amount of each award is determined based on the applicant’s financial need, and the scholarship is renewable for multiple years.
  • The ThanksUSA Scholarship Program provides up to $3,000 toward a bachelor’s degree or a license or certification program.  In association with this program, Kaplan University offers one full scholarship a year for an online degree program through Kaplan University.
A number of the available scholarship programs are intended specifically for spouses of deceased or disabled service members, including Hope for the Warriors and the NMCRS Gold Star Scholarship Program.

Comments

  1. Kiona Strickland

    November 4, 2011

    If anybody would like some help with the financial aid application process, feel free to send me a message; I used to work in university admissions, so I have a decent idea of what’s going on, and I’ll be happy to give you all whatever help I can.

    • kemton

      December 21, 2011

      I’m a medic stationed at the 10th mountain Infantry Division in Ft.Drum and I’m trying to find a cheaper way to get my wife back into college, your help will greatly be appreciated. To give you an idea of our situation, she used to attend bmcc for an associates in social work, but we had moved to New Jersey and got married, so seeing as we’re constantly moving we want to look into online school.

  2. Kiona Strickland

    January 19, 2012

    Kemton, has she completed her associate’s degree? If not, MyCAA funding will cover up to $4,000 of it ($2,000 per fiscal year). If she’s working on a 4-year degree and already has her associate’s, MyCAA probably won’t help, but you should check out Part 1 of this article for a great list of scholarships and some tips on applying for other financial aid. If you put the work into applying, it’s actually possible to get enough student loans, grants, and scholarships to cover your tuition and fees completely, especially as an undergraduate.

    Online school is a really great idea; it’s usually less expensive, even at traditional schools that also have physical campuses, and it’s portable. The important thing to remember is that not all online programs are created equal; you really want to avoid colleges that are completely online, like the University of Pheonix. Stick with real, established schools that happen to offer online programs.

    Her first step should be deciding when she wants to start school (fall 2012 is probably the soonest she could feasibly start at this point in the year) and then start applying. Good luck!

  1. Financial Aid for Military Spouses (Part 1)10-27-11