Today, higher education is more expensive than it’s ever been. Steep tuition rates and fees for books and labs add up to a bottom line that’s prohibitively pricey for the average student. Few can afford to pay for college out-of-pocket.
Finding funding for a quality education is particularly difficult for the families of military personnel. Spouses and their children must often put income streams on hold to accommodate the transient lifestyle of the military.
Without assistance, it’s too easy for military families to miss out on educational opportunities that could afford them upward mobility in a tough economy. Luckily, the spouses and children of the deployed have lots of tools for funding their education.
Build On Your Benefits
Military families are eligible for education benefits through Defense Department programs like the Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts, or MyCAA.
Additionally, some family members can use unused education credits from their service member’s GI Bill. But benefits alone may not pay the full cost of a college education.
While government benefits are a valuable source of aid, they are just the beginning. Military families can and should look beyond their benefits to ensure all their educational expenses are covered.
Scholarships are ideal for this purpose. Because they don’t have to be paid back, scholarships can significantly lower the cost of getting a degree.
Many generous scholarships are reserved for military spouses and children in recognition of the special challenges they face. Every year, millions of dollars open up to servicemembers’ husbands, wives, sons and daughters. These military spouse scholarships and scholarships for military children are administered by both commercial and non-profit organizations.
Here are some top sponsors in this space. No scholarship search for military families is complete without a look at:
Military Family Support Trust
The non-profit Military Family Support Trust offers numerous scholarships in amounts of up to $12,000. These include 14 distinctive scholarships named for individuals that contributed to the success and well-being of military families. The Trust’s programs place special emphasis on applicants’ leadership, ethics, and character.
Commander William S. Stuhr Scholarship Fund for Military Sons and Daughters
The Commander William S. Stuhr Scholarship is quite competitive. There is one $2,000 scholarship per branch of the Armed Services. To be eligible, you must rank in the top 10 percent of your class, have leadership experience, and score at least 1250 or 27 on your SAT or ACT, respectively.
U.S. Defense Commissary Agency
A joint project between the U.S. Defense Commissary Agency and the Fisher House Foundation, the popular Scholarships for Military Children Program (SMCP) provides one $2,000 award per commissary.
Every commissary in the world participates. The annual scholarship is funded by the companies that sell goods in the network, so everyone who shops at your local commissary contributes to educational opportunities for military-connected students.
These are not the only sponsors. Be sure to check with the following organizations for the latest scholarships catering to the spouses and children of servicemembers:
- Daughters of the Cincinnati
- Fisher House Foundation
- National Military Family Association
- Jaycees War Memorial Fund
- Military Officers Association of America
State governments are a potential source of scholarships many people forget in their search for grant aid. The state of Maryland, for instance, offers educational scholarships to military who served in either the Iraq or Afghanistan conflicts; both spouses and children are eligible for the same benefits as personnel.
In Arkansas, the Department of Higher Education offers a Military Dependents’ Scholarship. In New York, the Division of Veterans Affairs administers several Recognition Scholarships with a summertime deadline. Children, spouses and financial dependents are eligible.
Check with your state of residence, or the state of which your military partner or parent was a resident at the time of his or her service, to discover what’s currently available.
Don’t Miss the Boat
Even though we’re talking about free money, untold funds go unused every year because eligible students do not apply for them.
Some people miss the boat because they don’t research the best resources; others assume they can’t win a merit-based award. Neither is a good reason to forfeit your chance at a higher income and better job security through education, so start some applications today!