Online College for Military Spouses & Dependents

Learn how military benefits & online classes can help military spouses & dependents earn a degree from an online college and how it can benifit them.

October 19, 2021

Online College for Military Spouses & Dependents

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Financial Aid, Tips & Expert Advice for Families of Servicemembers

According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, the VA has provided educational benefits to 773,000 Veterans and their family members since the Post- 9/11 GI Bill® came into effect in 2009. Due to many factors, including the number of times military families are expected to relocate, many of these students take full advantage of online learning opportunities. With so many servicemembers and their families taking advantage of military education benefits, it makes sense to understand how to use military funding to full advantage for online college and garner a few tips on the best ways to ensure higher education works even while doing the hard work of moving from one place to another.

Online Learning Benefits for Military Spouses

The benefits of online learning are often magnified for military spouses and dependents. Here are just a few reasons why distance learning might be the best option.

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Featured Online Programs

Find a program that meets your affordability, flexibility, and education needs through an accredited, online school.

Online Learning Matters for Military Personnel and Families Who…

Important Note on Accreditation

A school is accredited when it has been evaluated by an independent body and found to meet the rigorous expectations of a high-quality education. Accreditation matters to the government; a military spouse must attend an accredited school in order to receive full funding benefits. Therefore, when making a short list of schools to attend, students should always look at accreditation as one of their "must-have" factors.

Education Assistance for Military Spouses

Knowing what's available for military spouses when it comes to financial aid and educational funding is vitally important, as it can help them avoid a prohibitively expensive tuition bill.

Funding begins with most students, regardless of military affiliation, with the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA collects information concerning income and family size, which is then reviewed by the government to determine how much financial aid a person will receive toward their higher education goals. The FAFSA isn't just used by the federal government; it is also necessary to apply for most state aid, college scholarships and local funding. Even some scholarship and grants awarded by small businesses and organizations rely on the FAFSA when awarding need-based funding.

After filling out the FAFSA, military spouses should look into what the government offers for those in the armed services. Here are a few of the options that deserve a closer look.

Some programs are undergoing changes that might broaden what's available to service members and their families. For instance, the Forever GI Bill, signed into law in August 2017, makes the GI Bill available to more people and allows them more time to use the benefits.

It's also important to remember that there might be other programs for military professionals and their families that can help pay the costs of tuition, books and more. For instance, the Yellow Ribbon Program is administered through colleges and universities that choose to participate. It provides additional funding to service members and their families.

Scholarships for Military Spouses and Dependents

Trying to obtain scholarships is always a great idea, as this is funding that doesn't have to be paid back after graduation. Here are a few to get you started.

Scholarships for Military Spouses and Dependents
Scholarship Amount Who Can Apply

Army Scholarship Foundation

Between $500 and $2,000 Spouses of active duty military members are eligible for a variety of scholarships through this foundation. The student must be attending an accredited institution and pursing an undergraduate degree.

National Military Family Association Scholarships

$500-$2,500 These awards are designated for spouses of service members. Funds up of up $1,000 are also available to spouses who are starting their own business.

Pat Tillman Foundation

Tuition, books, fees, and living expenses Military spouses who are seeking a full-time, four-year degree through certain U.S. colleges are eligible to apply to become a Tillman Scholar.

Salute to Spouses

Up to $6,000 There are a few scholarship opportunities available here, including the Bryant and Stratton College Online scholarship for a military spouse to apply toward an online degree.

ThanksUSA

Up to $3,000 This scholarship of up to $3,000 goes to spouses of eligible personnel who are attending an accredited college, university or technical school. Scholarships are based on need. Other grants and scholarships might be available through this organization.

5 Secrets to Staying on Top of Online Classes While Relocating for the Military

Relocating can be tough for numerous reasons, and keeping up with college work while making a move can seem like an impossible task. Fortunately, there are a few tactics dedicated military spouses can use when they're determined to make that move and keep their college moving at the same time.

From the day you learn about the move, start planning to make it a smooth transition. Look at each class and determine how far you are into it, how much more work must be done, what your deadlines are, and what time periods are non-negotiable concerning attendance; for example, if you must log on at a certain time in order to view a lecture with the rest of the class but you will be traveling at that time, other arrangements must be made. The earlier these things are tackled, the better. Let each instructor know that you'll be moving. Give them a proposed plan of action in getting all your work done on time. You should also provide them with contact information that will work even after you have left your current address. If it's possible to get some coursework done early, that's a great weight lifted from your shoulders. This is especially true if your online program allows you to work at your own pace. You could write essays or take assessments early, thus allowing a little breathing room during the move. Some online schools require specific notifications if you are moving out of state or out of the country. Look into the school guidelines to find out what you must do to keep them informed in a timely manner. If the guidelines aren't clear, get in touch with the admissions office. During a big move, it's important to ensure your tuition assistance keeps coming, your scholarship money still goes where it needs to go and that you get all assignments in a timely manner. Since there might be periods of time with no Internet connection, make certain every interested party has your new information, such as new address and direct phone number, before you make the move.

From the Expert

A military officer and creator of www.BudgetChaos.com, Martin graduated from the United States Military Academy and is completing his Master's Degree 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.

The MyCAA Scholarship is a military program that provides up to $4,000 of tuition assistance to military spouses. In order to qualify, the military service member must be in pay grades E-1 to E-5, W-1 to W-2, or O-1 to O-2.

Once you know what program you would like to pursue at a participating institution, the process is very easy. The only thing we wish we would have done differently was start 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 MyCAA Scholarship.

Q. What are your top financial advice tips for military members and their families when it comes to higher education?

The price of colleges varies drastically from option to option. Ensure you go to a school that fits within your budget. According to CNBC, the average American in their 30s has a student loan balance of $34,033.

Apply for all forms of financial aid and scholarships to lower the financial burden of college.

It is never too early to start saving for your children's college! The Education Savings Account (ESA) currently allows you to place up to $2,000 per year per child in a tax-advantaged account. If properly invested in growth mutual funds, it can grow to a significant amount 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 Degree in Financial Planning while deployed in Iraq. My best tip for military members to complete their college coursework while deployed is to discuss your decision with your commander and 1SG. In most cases, they will bend over backwards to ensure you have access to a computer and the ability to complete necessary coursework. However, you must be realistic with yourself on the amount of coursework your mission will allow you to complete. For all service members just starting out, I recommend only signing up for one class until you understand your education and mission requirements.

Q. Anything you want to add about military benefits for higher education?

I recommend all service members take advantage of their Tuition Assistance (TA) towards an associate, bachelor's, or master's degree. The Department of Defense offers a $250 cap and an annual ceiling of $4,500 towards completing higher education. TA is currently capped at 130 semester hours towards a baccalaureate degree and 39 semester hours of graduate credit. The service member will incur an Active Duty Service Obligation (ADSO) of two years after the date of completion of the last course that TA is used.

By using the TA, the service member is not tapping into the Post-9/11 GI Bill and reserving the option to transfer the educational benefits to a spouse or child (if they qualify).

Resources

The following resources provide more information on higher education for military spouses.

This site for U.S. Army service members and families provides information on educational opportunities and assistance available. Provides those in the military and their families with a wealth of information on a variety of programs and benefits for educational pursuits. A site focused on everything military, from joining and training to taking advantage of all the benefits service has to offer. Provides a great deal of information on a variety of programs for military members and their families, including information on educational assistance. This helpful site provides further information on benefits, including information on transferring the GI Bill to a spouse.

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