There are several education benefits available to dependents of veterans as well as surviving family members of deceased veterans. Ranging from scholarships to totally free school, these benefits are often overlooked.
Department of Defense
Post 9/11 GI Bill Transferability
In addition to the very generous education benefits offered by the Post-9/11 GI Bill, there is a special provision of the program that allows career servicemembers to share their remaining GI Bill (education) benefits with immediate family members. The key factor is whether or not the member has used any of his or her GI Bill in the past; only unused benefits can be transferred. This means that if the member has used 12 months of his or her GI Bill, then there is only 24 months of benefit left to share.
Servicemembers must meet specific criteria to be eligible to transfer their GI Bill benefits. This includes having at least six years of service and an obligation to serve at least four more.
Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts (MyCAA)
The Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts (MyCAA) program provides up to $4,000 of Financial Assistance for military spouses who are pursuing degree programs, licenses or credentials leading to employment in portable career fields.
Spouses can contact MilitaryOneSource for education counseling and help finding alternative funding sources. Call toll free at: 1.800.342.9647.
Click here to learn more about the MyCAA Career Advancement Accounts program.
Learn more about Spouse Employment opportunities and programs.
Dependents Education Assistance Program
The Dependents' Educational Assistance (DEA) program provides education and training opportunities to eligible dependents of certain veterans. The program offers up to 45 months of education benefits. These benefits may be used for degree and certificate programs, apprenticeship, and on-the-job training. If you are a spouse, you may take a correspondence course. Remedial, deficiency, and refresher courses may be approved under certain circumstances.
Marine GySgt John D. Fry Scholarship Program
The Fry Scholarship is an amendment to the Post-9/11 GI Bill that makes education benefits available to the surviving spouses and children of service members who die in the line of duty after Sept. 10, 2001. Like Post-9/11 veterans, eligible surviving spouses and children attending school may receive full tuition coverage at state-operated colleges and universities, plus a monthly living stipend and book allowance under this program.
Surviving spouses can use the Fry Scholarship for 15 years from the anniversary of the servicemember's death or until they remarry. Eligible children can use the Fry Scholarship between the ages of 18 and 33. Children under age 18 cannot use this benefit even if they have completed high school. The child's marital status does not affect eligibility for the Fry Scholarship.
State Provided Education Benefits
Educational benefits for families, particularly the children of deceased, MIA, POW, and disabled veterans, may be available in some states. Military.com has developed an on-line general summary of educational benefits for veterans, surviving spouses and their dependents.
Click here to learn more about State Education Benefits.
Private Scholarships and Grants
While looking for money for school many surviving spouses and their families overlook the over $300 million of military - and veteran - related scholarships and grants. These scholarships often go unclaimed due to the following misconceptions:
- VA education benefits eliminate the need for scholarships and grants.
- False - The truth is that the Survivor and Dependent Education Assistance program offers great benefits it may not cover everything. There are hundreds of scholarships and grants specifically designed to help cover education related costs, so you don't have to.
- Scholarships are too difficult to win and applying requires too much work.
- It is true that some scholarships require a written essay. But, it is important to remember that scholarship and grant applications vary widely, and some require nothing more than a short application. Besides you should think of it this way: It may be the only essay you ever get paid to write.
- Scholarships are too difficult to find.
- False - Many scholarships go unclaimed because students don't know where to look. Fortunately, there is a great online resource to help servicemembers find the scholarship and learn how, where, and when to apply. Visit the Military.com's Scholarship Finder today and get started on your way to finding free money for school.
Here are some quick tips to help your search:
- Do your homework. Take advantage of the free online scholarship search at Military.com's Scholarship Finder. The Scholarship Finder lists over 1,000 scholarships from a variety of sources.
- Don't limit yourself. You qualify for non-military related scholarships too. Visit your local library to find scholarship directories that list awards based on age, state of residence, cultural background, and field of study.
- Search in your military community. Many service aid organizations and associations, like the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society, offer scholarships, grants, and low interest loans to help cover education expenses.
- It's never too soon to start your scholarship search. Many scholarship application deadlines are as early as a year in advance.
Remember: Not applying for scholarships is like turning down free money. Get started on your search for scholarships today - visit the Military.com Scholarship Finder.
Army Emergency Relief (AER)
Army Emergency Relief maintains two scholarship programs – the Spouse Education Assistance Program and the MG James Ursano Scholarship Program for dependent children. Both scholarships provide financial assistance for students who are pursuing their first undergraduate degree.
Visit the Army Emergency Relief site for more details.
Air Force Aid Society (AFAS)
The AFAS offers grants, scholarships and loans:
- General Henry H. Arnold Education Grant Program - This grant program is competitive in its need-based selection criteria, uniquely tailored to recognize the proper weighing of family income and education cost factors. Grants of at least $2,000 are awarded to selected sons and daughters of Active Duty, Title 10 AGR/Reserve, Title 32 AGR performing full-time active duty, retired, retired reserve and deceased Air Force members; spouses of active duty members and Title 10 AGR/Reservists; and surviving spouses of deceased personnel for their full-time undergraduate studies.
- AFAS Merit Scholarship - The Society awards a minimum of ten $5,000 merit-based scholarships to incoming freshman who have completed both phases of the General Henry H. Arnold Education Grant application, and therefore, have already been reviewed for eligibility and had their GPA verified. Selection is based on cumulative GPA, SAT/ACT scores, transcripts, and an essay on a specified topic.
- Supplemental Education Loan Program - This loan is open only to dependents of regular Active Duty, Title 10 AGR/Reserve on extended active duty, Title 32 AGR performing full time active duty, regular Retired and Retired Reserve with 20+ years of creditable service who applied for the 2015-2016 General Henry H. Arnold Education Grant, as their eligibility has already been verified through the grant application process, and AFAS has the ability to collect repayment by allotment directly from the members' military/retired pay. Maximum dollar amount for each full-time dependent undergraduate student is $1,000, regardless of whether or not they received the need-based Arnold Grant.
Visit the Air Force Aid Society to learn more.
Navy and Marine Corps
The Navy Marine Corps Relief Society (NMCRS)
The Society’s Education Assistance Program offers interest-free loans and grants for undergraduate/post-secondary education at an accredited 2 or 4 year education, technical or vocational institution in the United States. This financial assistance is available for children of active duty, retired or deceased Sailors and Marines; and for spouses of active duty and retired Sailors and Marines.
Spouses of active duty Sailors and Marines stationed and living outside the United States are also eligible for the Society’s Spouse Tuition Assistance Program (STAP). For STAP assistance, contact your nearest overseas NMCRS office. NMCRS office locations and business hours are located here: http://www.nmcrs.org/locations.
NMCRS Education Assistance Program:
The Navy Marine Corps Relief Society offers interest free loans, grants, and scholarships.
- Interest free loans and grants range from $500 to $3,000 per academic year
- Amount to be provided to each applicant will be determined by NMCRS
- Funds are payable and provided to the student’s academic institution, not the student
- Funds are to be used only for tuition, books, fees, room, and board
- Repayment of interest free loans must be by military payroll allotment within 24 months of the loan disbursal (repayment of interest free loans for MECEP/MECP must be within 48 months following receipt of a military commission)
- Repayment allotments must begin September 1, (or the month following receipt of a military commission for MECEP/MECP students)
- Students must complete a new application for each academic year
Visit the NMCRS site for more details
The Coast Guard Foundation
The Coast Guard Foundation offers grants for active duty enlisted members and their spouses, it also offers scholarships to children of active duty, retired, or deceased enlisted members.
- Grants for enlisted active duty members - These grants are administered by the Coast Guard Institute and range from $250 - $500 per calendar year. For more information see the Coast Guard Institute's website
- Grants for spouses of active duty enlisted members - These grants are open to spouses of active duty enlisted personnel in pay grades E-3 to E-9. Spouses of Reservists on any type of active duty orders for at least one year in duration in the aforementioned pay grades are also eligible. Grants will be in the amount of $500 and are limited to one payment per calendar year.
- Scholarships for Coast Guard children - These scholarships are open to unmarried dependent children (under 24 years old) of enlisted men and women on active duty, reservists on extended active duty for 180 days or more, retirees, or deceased members of the U.S. Coast Guard. Applicants must be college bound high school seniors entering an accredited college or technical school for the fall semester or a full-time undergraduate student already enrolled in an accredited four-year undergraduate program or technical school.
Coast Guard Mutual Assistance (CGMA)
- Supplemental Education Grant - The SEG program reimburses documented educational costs specifically required by a course of study. Multiple grants may be awarded up to the authorized amount throughout the calendar year.
- CGMA Stafford/PLUS Loan Fee Reimbursement - Assistance for those who finance post-secondary education through the Federal Stafford Loan or Federal Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students (PLUS). CGMA reimburses clients for the loan fee (not to exceed 4% of the loan amount) typically charged borrowers at the time funds are disbursed.
- CGMA Education Loan - Interest free loan (up to $2,000) to help with postsecondary education expenses. Loan repayment begins a month after receipt of assistance. A new Education Loan will not be provided until any previous Education Loan has been repaid. All CGMA members and their families are eligible.
Visit the Coast Guard Mutual Assistance website to learn more.