By Carl Surran Article provided by Military Money
For military spouses, going back to school involves a sizeable time commitment and an expensive financial obligation. What's more, constant relocation may cause a spouse to worry about losing credits if he or she transfers to another college.However, programs created especially for military families can help bring a college education within your reach. Your installation education center should be the first source for information about local higher education opportunities. The services offered by these centers are not limited to military members - they are a resource for the entire family.
Most schools offering courses at your installation will include an office with a counselor available for spouses, where you can discuss your education goals and enrollment procedures. These counselors can address education issues that arise from frequent relocation and describe the military education assistance programs available for spouses. They also can provide information on scholarships and other financial assistance.
These are some of the programs, grouped by specific branch of service, offering financial assistance for military spouses:
Army: The Spouse Education Assistance Program (SEAP) awards grants to spouses of active-duty and deceased Army soldiers. Formerly targeted toward Army spouses in Europe, Korea, Japan and Okinawa, SEAP has expanded to include eligible spouses in the United States. Only full-time undergraduate level students apply. The maximum amount of money per individual during the 2006-07 academic year is $2,500.
Navy and Marines: The Spouse Tuition Assistance Program (STAP) offers help to spouses of active-duty Navy and Marine members serving overseas. He or she may be a full- or part-time student studying toward a vocational certificate, or an undergraduate or graduate degree. Maximum amounts granted for undergraduates are $300 per semester and $1,500 for the academic year; graduate levels are $350 and $1,750, respectively.
Air Force: The General Henry H. Arnold Education Grant Program assists children and spouses of active and deceased Air Force members. Qualifying applicants receive about $2,000. This is the most popular Air Force college financial aid program.
Coast Guard: The Coast Guard Mutual Assistance (CGMA) program offers a supplemental grant of $150 per year toward education-related expenses such as books, housing, supplies and admission tests. The money is available to any family member but does not include tuition expenses.
Frequent relocations may make it difficult for military members and spouses to maintain continuity in achieving a college education. The Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (SOC) program is ideal for easing this burden. A consortium of more than 1,500 colleges and universities across the United States that offers associate and bachelor's degrees, the program transfers credits between the colleges, allowing the student to continue with his or her education and not retake classes. SOC varies slightly from service to service, but all provide the resources necessary to help military families obtain a high level of education. Visit the SOC website. (Note: Due to the Community College of the Air Force, there is no Air Force-specific SOC program; however, it is a member of SOC under the general SOC program.)
Remember to investigate the many scholarships specifically developed for families of active-duty military and veterans. Various military associations and spouse clubs offer scholarship programs, and thousands of these scholarships go unused each year. The free Military.com Scholarship Finder can help you locate scholarships that best fit your needs. And don't just look at military sources of assistance. Many military spouses can qualify for Pell Grants, college work-study programs or other need-based financial aid.
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