Military Dependent Scholarships

Updated: July 20, 2021

Table of Contents

    There are many different types of military dependent scholarships. Some are offered by state governments, others may be offered by an individual branch of military service, or by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

    Military Service-Level Dependent Scholarship Programs

    Military Dependent Scholarships Depending on the branch of service, current funding levels, and other variables, dependents may have military scholarship options through the military parent’s branch of service or via that branch’s support agency such as the Navy/Marine Corps Relief Society or the Air Force Aid Society.

    The Navy/Marine Corps Relief Society’s Education Assistance Program, for example, provides both grants and interest-free loans for the children of active duty, retired, and deceased Marines and Sailors.

    These grants and loans are for accredited two and four year higher education programs in the United States.

    To qualify, students must be registered in the Defense Eligibility Enrollment Reporting System (DEERS) and be enrolled as a full-time student for the entire academic year. There is a minimum GPA requirement and the student must demonstrate a financial need.

    The Air Force Aid Society version of this comes in the form of Merit Scholarships for $5k each for up to 10 awards per year. These are made to dependent children and spouses of active duty and retired Airmen or Guardians “who demonstrate outstanding academic potential based on GPA”.

    These scholarships are awarded to applicants who will be freshmen, and these students are also required to apply for another program called the Arnold Education Grant, which is another Air Force Aid Society education program for dependents.

    The Arnold Education Grant is a competitive, need-based grant offered up to $4000 depending on the financial need. In order to compete for the Merit Scholarship listed above, you must also apply for the Arnold Education Grant, but you are not required to be awarded the Arnold Grant.

    As the Air Force Aid Society official site reminds, “A student can be awarded a Merit Scholarship without receiving the needs-based Arnold Education Grant.”

    State-Level Military Dependent Scholarships

    Many state governments offer scholarships and other educational benefits to the dependents of military members. Many of these programs have qualifiers, such as a requirement that the veteran have qualifying service in expeditionary campaigns or military operations on or after 9/11.

    There are programs for dependent children of service members who have died as a result of military service, and there are also programs for the children of veterans who were disabled as a result of military duty.

    Others may simply be offered to the dependents of veterans based on their status as dependents alone; much depends on the state, the program, current funding levels, and other factors.

    The State of Washington is a good example. The state waives undergraduate tuition and fees for up to 200 quarter credits or 133 semester hours at Washington state-supported community colleges, colleges, and universities.

    This is offered to eligible dependents of resident Washington state military members and veterans who are 100% disabled as rated by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

    Another example? The Missouri Wartime Veteran’s Survivors Grant Program is offered to  children and spouses of veterans:

    • whose deaths or injuries were a result of combat action or were attributed to an illness contracted while serving in combat action
    • who became 80 percent disabled as a result of injuries or accidents sustained in combat action since Sept. 11, 2001

    To qualify, an applicant must be enrolled or accepted at least half-time as an undergraduate student. There is an age limit for dependent children; you must be younger than 25 to use this program.

    For all state scholarship programs you will be required to apply based on the program’s individual requirements–there is no standardized application system across all 50 states for these options.

    AMVETS Scholarships

    AMVETS is a veteran service organization offering a variety of scholarship opportunities for dependents and veterans alike. These scholarships are meant to fill the gap between state and federal scholarships, grants, and other tuition assistance.

    All applicants must meet eligibility requirements that include having a financial need, must not be in default on a federal student loan, must be in good academic standing and enrolled in an approved higher education program.

    The Scholarship application period opens in late January and typically closes at the end of April each year.

    The American Legion Auxiliary Children of Warriors National Presidents’ Scholarship

    This scholarship is offered to the children of veterans who served in the Armed Forces during “eligibility dates for membership in The American Legion”

    • April 6, 1917, to Nov. 11, 1918
    • Any time after Dec. 7, 1941

    These are $5,000 scholarships for undergrad studies at an accredited four-year college or university and can be applied toward tuition, books, fees, and housing.

    The Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship

    Fry Scholarships are for qualifying children and spouses of service members who died in the line of duty after Sept. 10, 2001, and the program offers 36 months of education benefits. Dependent children are eligible once they turn 18 unless the dependent has graduated high school.

    Eligible surviving spouses do not have a time limit to apply for a Fry Scholarship, but are no longer able to apply once remarried when applicable.

    Some students are already enrolled in a program when considering the Fry Scholarship. In such cases the student must bring the Fry Scholarship application to the school, which should help the applicant complete VA Form 22-1999, Enrollment Certification, and send the application/VA forms to VA.

    The Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA) Program

    This VA program provides up to 45 months of education and on-the-job training. Additional time may be offered up to 81 months if the DEA program is used in conjunction with other VA programs.

    Qualifying dependents of veterans with VA-rated medical issues deemed permanently and totally disabled due to a service-related condition may be eligible for DEA, which is also open to eligible dependents of veterans who died while on active duty or as a result of a VA-rated condition caused by or associated with military service.

    DEA benefits may be available to the dependent children or spouses who meet VA guidelines for the program. These are the dependents of:

    • A Veteran who died or is permanently/totally disabled as the result of a service-connected disability.
    • A Veteran who died from any cause while such permanent and total service-connected disability existed.
    • A service member missing in action or captured in line of duty by a hostile force.
    • A service member forcibly detained or interned in line of duty by a foreign government or power.
    • A service member hospitalized (or getting outpatient treatment) for a service connected permanent and total disability and is likely to be discharged for that disability.

    Other requirements include the following:

    • Dependents must be between 18 and 26.
    • Some may be allowed to apply before age 18 and to continue after age 26 depending on circumstances.
    • Dependents serving in the military cannot apply for this benefit while serving on active duty.
    • Dependents in the military can apply to the VA for an extension of the eligibility period by the number of months/days equal to active duty time.

    Some won’t qualify for either program listed above, while others may qualify for both the Fry Scholarship and the VA DEA program. There is no “double dipping” for these programs, only one can be used. That said, a dependent may be technically able to apply for both programs. Only one can be used at a time.


    About The AuthorJoe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News


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    Written by MilitaryBenefits