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College for Military Family Members
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides veterans, their spouses, and dependents with benefits and services. It offers advice regarding the best military-friendly online colleges. Learners can use their GI Bill® benefits at online schools and brick-and-mortar colleges.
This page explains the benefits of online college for military spouses. This guide also covers military education benefits for dependents. The embedded links provide more information about military education assistance.
Online Learning Benefits for Military Spouses
Online college for military spouses makes higher education affordable and accessible. Learners graduate ready to advance their careers. Online learning provides flexibility since students can complete coursework from anywhere.
Military workforce development programs can help military spouses further their education. The My Career Advancement Account (MyCAA) program provides significant financial assistance for students pursuing a certificate or degree. These and other funding programs may limit applicants to active-duty service members' spouses or high school graduates.
Many online programs run asynchronously. Learners do not need to attend virtual meetings at a set time. This advantage allows them to schedule their education around other responsibilities. Some online programs require in-person practicums or internships. Online students should budget for commuting or lodging expenses.
Military education assistance for spouses includes dedicated scholarships. Colleges and private organizations offer these scholarships. Military branches also award scholarships and grants. Application requirements may include having a military spouse who entered the armed forces after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Staying Competitive in the Job Market
Online college for military dependents helps learners stay competitive in the job market as many employers prefer candidates with a degree. College degrees also provide transferable skills. Military spouses can use these skills to switch careers if they move due to relocation or deployment.
Online Learning Matters for Military Personnel and FamiliesEarning a college degree can present challenges for military spouses and dependents. Online programs help solve some of these challenges. Students can learn anywhere with a reliable internet connection.
Those Stationed Overseas With No Access to Higher Education
Military families stationed overseas cannot access higher education due to language barriers or lack of schools. Also, GI Bill benefits may not apply at foreign institutions. Online college for military spouses allows learners to enroll in top U.S. schools.
Those Serving in Different Time Zones
Asynchronous programs benefit military families in different time zones. Learners on the other side of the world can keep pace with their peers in the U.S. without significantly changing their schedules.
Those Facing Sudden Transfers
Military spouses or dependents pursuing degrees may need to move unexpectedly. Online learning allows them to continue their education. This advantage helps them save money and reduce the time needed to graduate.
Those Living on Base
Even military families on a U.S. base may not live near a college or university. Online college for military dependents allows students to attend the most affordable programs without relocating.
Important Note on Accreditation
Selecting the best online college for military dependents involves confirming accreditation status. The U.S. Department of Education charters regional accreditation agencies to evaluate the nation's colleges and universities. Learners should avoid applying to schools without regional accreditation.
The best online schools also hold national accreditation from the Distance Education Accrediting Commission. This accreditation signifies a school's online programs feature the same rigor and learning outcomes as its on-campus degrees.
Education Assistance for Military Spouses
Spouses benefit from multiple forms of military education assistance. Examples include GI Bill transfer, MyCAA, and exclusive scholarships. Applicants must enroll in accredited schools. College financial aid advisors can help learners complete the FAFSA and explore financial aid options.
GI Bill Transfer
GI Bill transfer allows active-duty service members to give their college financial aid to a spouse or another qualified dependent. Requirements include possessing at least six years of service and agreeing to a four-year service extension. Service members apply for the transfer online. The Department of Defense reviews all transfer requests.
GI Bill transfer lasts for 36 months and covers tuition, campus housing, and books. The VA lists participating colleges and universities.
MyCAA helps active-duty service members' spouses but not children. The service member's pay grade must not exceed E-5, W-2, or O-2. Applicants need a high school diploma and must speak with a career coach.
MyCAA provides up to $4,000 in tuition assistance. Approved programs include career-aligned certificates and associate degrees. Prospective students can research approved schools and apply on MyCAA's website.
Survivors' and Dependents' Educational Assistance Program
The VA's Survivors' and Dependents' Educational Assistance (DEA) program assists military spouses and children. Eligibility requirements include the military spouse either dying in combat or having a combat-related permanent disability. Dependents aged 18-26 can participate in the program. Spouses may use the benefit within 10 years of their military spouse's death or disability.
As of Nov. 2021, DEA provides a $1,298 monthly rate for full-time students. This rate changes yearly on Oct. 1.
Students whose military spouse or parent died in action on or after Sept. 11, 2001, can apply for Fry Scholarships. Children qualify until age 33. They may combine this scholarship with the DEA program.
As of Nov. 2021, Fry Scholarship recipients attending school full time do not pay tuition or fees at in-state public colleges. The program awards up to about $26,040 annually to those attending a private or international school.
Scholarships for Military Spouses and Dependents
Many organizations sponsor scholarships for military spouses and children. Application deadlines and requirements vary. College financial aid advisors can help students explore and apply to these and similar scholarships.
Tips for Staying on Top of Online Classes While Relocating for the Military
Learners can make the most of their military education assistance by balancing relocating with coursework. See below for tips to keep up with learning while moving for the military.
Start Planning Immediately
Students should prepare for relocating even before their military spouse's orders arrive. Preparing in advance lowers stress and helps learners stay on top of their coursework throughout the process.
Communicate with Instructors
Students in the middle of relocating should keep their professors informed. Professors may approve deadline extensions and other accommodations. Students should contact these individuals as soon as possible after confirming a relocation.
Work Ahead If Possible
Relocating takes time and energy. Some students may want to work ahead to clear their schedules. Learners can contact professors to select assignments and set new deadlines.
Check the School Guidelines
Colleges may post guidelines involving rules or accommodations for learners relocating because of a military spouse. Check this information online and contact the admissions office to learn more.
Ensure Everyone Has Contact Information
Students preparing to relocate should make sure that they update their school with new contact information, including their address and phone number. This step ensures learners continue receiving essential school and financial aid information.
From the Expert
Nolan Martin is a military officer and creator of BudgetChaos.com. He graduated from the United States Military Academy and is completing his master's in financial planning. Nolan applies military discipline to help readers live the financial life of their dreams.
Q. Your Wife Used MyCAA to Help With an Associate Degree. Tell Us More About That.
MyCAA is a military program that provides up to $4,000 of tuition assistance to military spouses. Qualifying military service members must be in pay grades E-1 to E-5, W-1 to W-2, or O-1 to O-2.Once you choose a degree, the process is easy. We only wish we started sooner to get the full benefit of $4,000. If the military service member is promoted to a rank above the requirements, then you will no longer qualify for the scholarship.
Q. What Are Your Top Financial Tips For Military Members and Their Families When it Comes to Higher Education?
The price of colleges varies drastically. Ensure you go to a school that fits within your budget. Americans in their 30s have an average student loan balance of about $34,000.
Apply for all forms of financial aid and scholarships to help offset costs. It's never too early to start saving for your children's college. Education savings accounts allow you to place up to $2,000 per year per child in a tax-advantaged account. If properly invested in growth mutual funds, these accounts can grow and cover most tuition expenses.
Q. Do You Have Any Tips for Students About Staying on Top of Their Schoolwork While Deployed or Moving?
I'm currently completing my master's in financial planning while deployed in Iraq. My best tip for deployed military members is to discuss their decision with your commander and first sergeant. They will usually ensure you have computer access and time to complete the necessary coursework.
However, stay realistic about how much coursework your mission allows you to complete. I recommend new service members sign up for only one class until they understand their education and mission requirements.
Q. Anything You Want to Add About Military Benefits for Higher Education?
I recommend all service members take advantage of the Tuition Assistance (TA) program. The Department of Defense offers a $250 cap and an annual ceiling of $4,500 toward completing higher education.
TA is currently capped at 130 semester hours toward a bachelor's degree and 39 semester hours of graduate credit. Service members incur an Active Duty Service Obligation of two years after the date of completion of the last course that TA is used.
By using the TA, service members are not tapping into the Post-9/11 GI Bill and reserving the option to transfer the educational benefits to a qualifying spouse or child.
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