Besides being married to the love of your life, or the rare opportunity to travel the country (or globe if you’re even luckier), all while building a rapport with people of all walks of life from all across this great country; one of the GREAT (that’s right, GREAT) perks of being a military spouse is the education benefits you can receive.
Military spouse education benefits are a topic of hot discussion throughout the military community. Many spouses are uncertain if they are eligible to receive these benefits and how they can apply.
With everything from tuition assistance and grants, to scholarships and online education, it’s no wonder many can be left confused! So let’s break it down in a simple and easy to understand way.
Military Spouse Online Education
Online education is possibly one of the best options a military spouse has to further their education or career. Considering that most military families will move on average every 2-3 years, choosing a brick and mortar school can be difficult.
Most of these schools have out of state tuition expenses that can make affording to attend difficult, even with the help of outside grants or scholarships. In addition, credit transfers have to be considered, as well as degree path and program completion time.
Online education, however, does not have those expenses and often will apply previously awarded credits towards the degree path you choose.
Many online universities also offer military discounts for members of the military and their dependents. This can mean a lower cost tuition rate or a great discount on books and lab fees.
Many online colleges accept something called the MyCAA, which stands for Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts. The MyCAA is designed to do exactly what it sounds like – advance the career of the military spouse by providing a path towards a certification, associates degree or license.
The goal is to have the spouse pick a career that is “portable” meaning that in the course of their time with the military they will have the ability to take their certification, license or degree with them anywhere they are stationed.
The MyCAA offers up to $4000 in tuition assistance over a 2 year time period to those who are eligible and it is widely popular.
There are some drawbacks to the MyCAA though, the biggest of which is that it is only for eligible spouses whose sponsor rank falls between E-1 to E-5, W-1 to W-2, and O-1mto O-2.
This leaves many spouses without the ability to use the grant if they wish to pursue their education dreams. While the MyCAA is a great program, luckily for those spouses who fall through its cracks, it’s not the only education benefit a military spouse has.
Military Education Benefits for Spouse
The Post 9/11 GI Bill has been a great education asset to military members, providing them with degree paths and ensuring the furthering of their military education both while in service and upon the completion of their time in the military.
But did you know that this benefit was not just for the service member? Spouses and dependents are also eligible to receive all or part of the bill as well.
Under a provision provided by the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the service member may transfer all or any part of the remaining benefit to their spouse.
This means that those spouses who fall out of the eligibility range for the MyCAA program are able to have their tuition covered.
In fact, the Post 9/11 GI Bill is even less restrictive than the MyCAA and may cover more education options for those looking to pursue a 4yr degree as opposed to a certificate or associate’s degree program.
There are a few limitations to the eligibility of this transfer, however. The service member must have at least six years of active duty service but no more than 16.
The transfer is also subjective, meaning that should the eligible spouse not wish to use it, then they are able to revoke or modify it at any time. Once the transfer has been approved, the spouse simply needs to apply for their benefits through the VA.
Retired Military Spouse Education Benefits
If you’re the spouse of a retired service member you may be wondering what education benefits are available for you as well.
Hopefully, your spouse has been able to transfer their post 9/11 GI benefits to you prior to leaving the service. Or you’ve been able to take advantage of the MyCAA tuition assistance.
Likely these are the first two options that will appear in any search you do for education assistance for retired military spouses.
If you haven’t taken advantage of these programs or simply weren’t eligible for them, there are still some options.
Veterans receive many benefits post service and their spouses are eligible for them as well.
This includes everything from scholarships and grants to job placement assistance. Often the VA has specific programs for veterans’ spouses. One of these is the DEA program.
The Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program is a benefit to those dependents (children and spouses) of veterans who meet certain disability qualifications or if the veteran is deceased.
Some of the qualifications include if the veteran has been determined to be totally disabled, missing or captured in the line of duty, or if they have a service-connected or permanent disability.
One important note, there is a time limit to the eligibility for spouses. So if you think you fall in these categories check with the VA to see if you can still qualify.
Another option available to many spouses for their education benefits after retirement are scholarships. Scholarships are awarded on an application basis.
Some may require more work than others such as writing an essay or submitting an interview. However, the work shouldn’t deter you from applying.
Scholarships can range from $400 to $1000 such as what the National Military Family Association Scholarship offers. This scholarship is awarded to active-duty military spouses, retired spouses or spouses of wounded or fallen service members.
For more, read our list of the best scholarships for military families.
As you can see, there are many options and opportunities for military spouse education benefits.
Whether you are just starting to think about your career as a military spouse or are looking to further your education goals post-military service, there are many great avenues to achieving your goals!
Tae the time to review each of them. It will help you to make the best choice for yourself and your family.