Photo Credit: CollegeDegrees360
By Craig Gilman, Faculty Member at American Military University
Balancing military family life and education is hard, but it isn’t impossible. Sacrifice is necessary and good, but in regards to education, your family and community will all benefit if you decide to make earning a degree your personal priority.
But, can your family afford for you to go to college? There is help available.
Most people in the military community are familiar with the educational opportunities available for the active-duty member of the family, including the Montgomery GI Bill, the Post 9/11 GI Bill, and branch-specific Tuition Assistance (TA). However, there are lesser-known federal funding programs available for military spouses.
- MyCAA program: can be used at several different types of schools. MyCAA is like TA for spouses. It stands for My Career Advancement Account and provides tuition credits of up to $4,000 ($2,000 a year for up to two years) toward an associate degree or professional certification at an accredited college.
- Spouse Education and Career Opportunities (SECO) Program: offered by the Department of Defense through Military OneSource. SECO is focused on portability planning, not directly funding your education, but it can help you plan for your career. SECO also provides links to other valuable degree-planning resources.
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs educational benefits for spouses and survivors. Generally, this covers 45 months of education, but it can be combined with other programs like the Survivors and Dependents Educational Assistance Program and the GI Bill, which extends the benefit to up to 81 months.
- Memorial scholarships through Veterans Affairs. Some of these are offered to spouses and are often larger than those offered by MyCAA. As a bonus, you will be part of someone’s legacy.
If these benefits don’t cover your costs or meet your needs, consider student loans. Be sure to choose government-backed federal loans over private loans that usually carry a higher interest rate. Federal Student Aid (FSA) comes in many forms, depending on your situation: subsidized, unsubsidized, PLUS, or consolidation loans (if you are in repayment). If you meet the income guidelines, you may qualify for a Perkins loan.
Most schools are very open about the cost of their degrees, and if they aren’t, just search for “cost per credit” to calculate your personal costs. Be careful to consider how much debt you are willing to take on to achieve your degree and how quickly you will be able to pay it back based on your earning potential after graduation.
Making the commitment to your education is a major one for you and your family. There are many benefits to higher education for spouses, but it is a financial commitment that you need to consider as well. There is no time like the present, because-with the current budget situation-these federal benefits likely won’t be around forever.
About the Author
Craig Gilman is an education coordinator and online adjunct faculty member with American Military University. He is a veteran who served in the Marine Corps as an infantry officer. Prior to joining APUS Craig taught secondary social studies as a public school teacher in Virginia, international school in Seoul, Korea, and public middle school in Tokyo, Japan.