Living the mobile military lifestyle can be hectic…especially when we’re trying to pursue our education. Finding financial aid for military spouses for education can often feel even more problematic.
But, like the rest of the world, we just need to get creative to find financial aid for military spouses to fund our schooling and training. Here are a few suggestions to get you started!
MyCAA (My Career Advancement Account) is a program designed to provide financial aid for military spouses (who are eligible) pursuing portable career fields. Specifically, MyCAA will provide up to $4000 in tuition assistance for spouses seeking monetary assistance for licenses, certifications, certificates or associate degree. However, not every military spouse will be eligible.
For example, your service member must be on active Title 10 orders and fall within the ranks of E1-E5, W1-W2, or O1-O2. Coast Guard spouses are also ineligible. Spouses must also be pursuing a “portable career field”, and their education must strictly adhere to that. For instance, if you’re going for an associate degree in Liberal Arts (aka, General Studies), MyCAA wouldn’t fund your schooling. There are a slew of other guidelines and requirements, but thankfully they break it down fairly well in these FAQs.
2. Post 9/11 GI Bill Transfer
Some military spouses may be eligible to receive VA financial aid if their service member chooses to transfer their education benefits to them. Depending on the amount of time they have in service (at least 10 years) and the amount of time left on their current contract (among other criteria), service members can transfer some or all (up to 36 months’ worth) of their education benefits to their eligible dependents.
But keep in mind, come 7/20/2019, your service member must have less than 16 years or less in order to transfer their benefits to you. Transferring VA education benefits can often be cumbersome, and in recent months, the VA has made several changes to this program. It’s important to stay abreast of these changes and make sure your family doesn’t fall through the cracks.
3. Military Spouse Scholarships
There are a slew of organizations who offer financial aid for military spouses in the form of scholarships. This list is by no means exhaustive, but should help get you started on your search for additional education funding. Bear in mind, many organizations offer these scholarships during certain times of the year, so pay close attention to the deadlines.
- The National Military Family Association (NMFA) is one of the nation’s leading non-profit organizations geared towards military family advocacy, and they have plenty of resources available to help fund your career and educational pursuits. Typically twice a year they offer several scholarships ranging from $500 for career funding, $1000 for degree funding and up to $2500 for clinical supervision towards licensure in the mental health field. They also have partnerships with several educational institutions (quite possibly your own school) as well.
- The American Military Partner Association (AMPA) is the largest resource and support network for partners, spouses, families and allies of America’s LGBTQ service members and veterans. A few years ago, they launched their military spouse scholarship to further the education, advocacy and support of today’s modern military family. And to answer your question: No, you are not required to identify as LGBTQ to be eligible. In fact, their website specifically states: All military spouses who meet the basic requirements indicated above are eligible to apply, regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, age, sex, sexual orientation or gender identity.
- ThanksUSA is another organization that offers military spouse scholarships annually (typically between April and May each year). Their mission is to provide need-based college, technical and vocational school scholarships and pathways to meaningful employment for children and spouses of military members. Like NMFA, they also partner with schools and other programs to give you that leg up on education funding.
4. Student Loans
Bottom line, it’s rare to find scholarships and grants that will cover the entire cost of your educational pursuits. Sometimes, we just have to bite the big one and apply for student loans. It’s important to remember that student loans are just that: LOANS. You’ll have to pay these funds back (with interest). Student loan debt is currently eating many post-graduates alive, forcing them to delay life events like buying a home, getting married or even having children.
Applying for student loans should be a last resort, but no matter what you should fill out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) before starting school. Depending on your family’s income, you could be eligible for a Pell Grant (i.e. Free Money), but that can only be determined if you apply.
*NOTE: When filling out your FAFSA, be sure not to include BAH and other allowances into your family’s income. My own financial aid counselor advises this to all of her students as it may make it look as if you’re family “makes” more money than it does and might derail your chances of scoring a Pell Grant.
More Ways to Save
There are a few more ways you could save some change along the way (which really adds up over the course of your educational journey). Here are a few suggestions:
- Ask your school’s financial aid counselor if they offer a military discount. I know, I know…there are many of us that take issue with asking ANYONE for military discount. For those of us that do ask, chances are we’ve caught flack for it on more than one occasion. However, do you really want to miss out on a 10-25 percent tuition discount JUST on principle? Then by all means don’t ask…but just remember those principles will end up costing you thousands of dollars in the long run.
- Look into your service’s relief societies. Depending on your spouse’s branch of service, many of these organizations offer financial aid for military spouses through scholarships, interest free loans or grants to help ease your funding burden.
- Rent, don’t buy, your text books. Honestly, do we really need that college algebra text book 10 years from now? I highly doubt you want to move those monsters with you every 2-3 years. Instead, consider renting them! There are several sites, such as Chegg, that will allow you to rent your textbooks. You just order it, pay a nominal fee (compared to actually purchasing the textbook outright) and return it by the due date (anywhere from 3-12 months). Amazon, as well as Barnes and Noble, have also gotten into the textbook rental game, so be sure and shop around for the best price based on your needs!
There are so many ways to help fund your education. You may not be able to take advantage of all of them, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep searching. You have a passion, a dream, a goal, a calling…you won’t let military life stop you from achieving them because you are resourceful. So use that resourcefulness and find you some financial aid for military spouses!