By Sandra Jontz Take the freebies wherever you can get them, Autumn Tate recommends.
She plans to take her own advice and apply for a new military spouses college tuition assistance program that will pay for up to $6,000 for classes over two years.
The Department of Defense Military Spouse Career Advancement Account, or MyCAA, funds a program for spouses pursuing "portable careers," said Gayle Ruffenach, director of the Navy College Office in Naples, Italy, who is familiar with the military-wide program.
Portable careers - such as business administration, education or health services - are flexible in nature and can be performed just about anywhere servicemembers and their families are stationed, Ruffenach said.
"Take advantage of it, don't let the opportunity slip by," said Tate, 34, who plans to work toward a master's degree in human relations from the University of Oklahoma campus in Naples.
Military spouses of active-duty or active reserve members can apply for up to $3,000 a year for college tuition for two years. They can apply for the program through the Military OneSource website at www.militaryonesource.com.
The tuition assistance does not need to be repaid and is not based on need, as with some federal grant programs that are geared toward lower-income households, Ruffenach said.
Students don't receive a lump sum of money; instead, MyCAA provides funding for specific courses that is paid directly to the college or university, Ruffenach said. The program began May 1.
It doesn't matter if students already have college degrees, said Tate, who earned a bachelor's degree in liberal arts from West Virginia University. As a former cryptologic technician in the Navy, she also will have access to educational benefits through the Post-9/11 GI Bill. But she won't let a bit of it go to waste, said Tate, who works as a relocation specialist for Fleet and Family Support Center in Naples.