by Bianca M. Strzalkowski

The cost of being a college student is on the rise. Tuition at a four-year public institution was 40 percent higher in 2015 than in 2005-06, according to Trends in College Pricing 2015 by the College Board. Luckily, the organizations that support military families understand lack of financial aid options can be an obstacle for spouses pursuing a degree. The start of the new year offers opportunities specifically aimed at the military spouse student.
Scholarship and financial aid resources for higher education for milspouses

First comes the how

Before digging in to where to apply, here are a few tips on successfully completing the process to maximize your opportunities:

  1. Read the qualifications.
  2. Pay attention to deadlines.
  3. Thoroughly complete all required information.
  4. Get an early jump on filling out the application in case you are required to include letters of recommendations, transcripts, etc.
  5. Be determined. College is expensive and these grant/scholarship opportunities are offering you the chance to get ‘free’ money for just a little bit of time and energy.

Now comes the who

Branch Aid Societies: Each of the military service branches have an affiliate branch aid society offering an array of programs and services, to include educational assistance.

Air Force – Air Force Aid Society.

Who’s eligible: Spouses, surviving spouses, dependent children.

Deadline March 18, 2016.

Army – Army Emergency Relief.

Who’s eligible: Spouses and dependent children.

Deadline May 1, 2016.

Coast Guard – Coast Guard Mutual Assistance.

Who’s eligible: Spouses, unmarried dependent children, dependent parents.

Deadline: Rolling basis.

Marines and Navy – Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society.

Who’s eligible: Spouses of active or retired Marines & Sailors; children of an active duty, retired or deceased Marine or Sailor.

Deadline May 1, 2016.

Spouse Clubs: Various installations around the globe have military spouse clubs open to ranks of both enlisted and officer service members. Annually, the clubs offer scholarships for dependents – in some cases military kids are also eligible. Lastly, in most cases you do not have to be a member of the club to be eligible.

Tip: A simple Internet search of your current installation and the phrase “spouse club” will list if there is an active club in your area.

Examples of locations

San Antonio, TX: Scholarship open to all civilian spouses and dependent children of Air Force personnel attached to JBSA -Lackland. Link for more information: Lackland OSC.

Fort Benning, GA: Scholarships are available to any family member of an active-duty or retired soldier assigned to Fort Benning. Link for more information: Fort Benning Community Spouses Club.

Camp Lejeune, NC: Spouse or high school senior of personnel assigned to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. Link to more information: Camp Lejeune OSC.

National Spouse Clubs: In addition to the local spouse clubs, nationally scholarships are offered by groups such as the Navy Wives Club of America. NWCA is open to Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.

Scholarship and educational financial assistance for military spouses.

Private Organizations:

National Military Family Association: Open to all military spouses of any rank or branch pursuing any level of education. Deadline to apply is January 31, 2016.

Pat Tillman Foundation: Open to active duty service members, veterans, and spouses. Application is available as of February 2, 2016; closes March 1, 2016.

ThanksUSA: The scholarship opens April 1, 2016 with a deadline to apply by May 15, 2016.

Veterans United Foundation: Spouses or dependent children of a deceased veteran. Application opens March 1 and closes April 1, 2016.

Other options:

Department of Defense (DoD) Tuition Assistance Program for the junior ranks: An ongoing $4,000 education option offered by the DOD is MyCAA (My Career Advancement Account). It is offered yearlong with very specific criteria:

  • Spouses of service members in the ranks of E-1 to E-5, W-1 to W-2 and O-1 to O-2 who can complete their coursework while their sponsor is on Title 10 orders.
  • Covers tuition costs for courses leading to an Associate’s degree, licensure, or certification.

Link for more information: MyCAA

Department of Education Pell Grant: In order to qualify for a Pell Grant, students must complete a FAFSA (Free Application for Student Aid) on the DoED website. Grants are for undergraduate degrees and do not have to be paid back. Link for more information: Department of Education FAFSA.

For more information on pursuing any education opportunity, Military OneSource offers education counselors 24/7 through the Spouse & Education Career Opportunities (SECO) Center at 800-342-9647.