Article Credit: Laura Ott, PhD
Article Originally published at NextGenMilSpouse
There are definite perks to the military lifestyle. Guaranteed health care, housing allowances, shopping at the commissary and exchange, and opportunities to live in places we may have never imagined. None of these, however, top the sense of pride we have for our spouses, who bravely defend our country.
The military lifestyle, however, is not always easy. There are many aspects of our chosen lives that are challenging and often not fully understood by the civilian community.
One issue that is garnering a lot of attention is spouse education and career advancement. These two issues are intimately related because let’s face it, in today’s economy some form of education or training is often needed to climb the career ladder. And climbing the career ladder is something that many milspouses deeply desire.
Spouse employment was highlighted recently by the publication of the Military Spouse Education Report (published in 2014). This report showed that the unemployment rate for active duty female military spouses is double (yes, double!) the rate of our civilian counterparts. The unemployment rate is even greater for military spouses between the ages of 18 and 24 years old. While spouses reported underemployment based on their education and training, the report also highlighted that many spouses were seeking an education to advance their career, increase earnings and their own intellectual curiosity.
But given the military lifestyle, it can be hard to maintain a career, let alone complete the education or training needed to land the job that we so desire. Even with our incredibly supportive spouses, it’s hard to attend school or work full time amidst constant deployments, frequent relocations and other aspects of military life. I want to change this!
Throughout my time as a military spouse and educator, I have had the pleasure of interacting with many military spouse students. Each story is unique, but all involve challenges in some form that are not often experienced by other student demographics on campus. The military has realized that spouse education and career advancement opportunities need to be addressed if they are to retain high caliber service members. While I feel that there is room for improvement, the military has started to address these issues by launching programs to support milspouse students, such as MyCAA accounts and allowing service members to transfer their post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to dependents.
In my opinion, the military should not receive the entire burden of assisting military spouse students. I think that institutions of higher education can also assist military spouses (or dependents in general) find educational and career success. Isn’t helping students find success the overall mission of colleges and universities? As someone who’s spent the past 10 years in academia, I would love to see more institutions initiate military dependent specific programming on campuses.
Supporting the needs of milspouse students has become my mission. As a researcher, I think the most powerful way to affect change is to have data supporting your cause. This is why I’m writing this blog post.