Part 1 of this article 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.
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.
- Air Force
- Stateside spouses of Air Force members are eligible for the General Henry H. Arnold Education Grant Program, also provided by the Air Force Aid Society. These $2,000 grants can also be renewed from year to year if you re-apply.
- The Air Force Association offers the Air Force Spouse Scholarship Program for spouses pursuing higher education at any level- associate, bachelor’s, or post-graduate. The $2,500 scholarship is for one year only and cannot be renewed or awarded a second time.
- Army Emergency Relief offers a $2,500-per-academic-year scholarship for spouses of soldiers stationed overseas and a separate $2,500-per-academic-year scholarship for spouses of soldiers stationed in the U.S. Both scholarships are for bachelor’s degrees only and are dispersed in 5 increments of $500 per “term” during the year. Both full-time and part-time students are eligible. Full-time students can renew their scholarships for up to four years, and part-time students can renew their scholarships for up to eight years.
- The Army Scholarship Foundation is a private organization not affiliated with the Army itself. It offers scholarships ranging from $500 to $2,000 a year, which can be renewed for up to four years.
- Marine Corps and Navy
- Two educational loans are available from the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society. The Spouse Tuition Aid Program provides no-interest loans up to $3,000 a year for spouses of sailors or Marines stationed outside the United States. The Vice Admiral E. P. Travers Loan Program is for those in the U.S.; loans range from $500 to $3,000 and are paid directly to the service member, not to the dependent or the school. Travers loans must be paid off within two years, and payments can be made only by an allotment of the service member’s pay.
- The FRA Education Foundation offers annual scholarships up to $5,000 to Marines, Sailors, and their families.
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.