Military Spouse Tuition AssistanceUpdated: October 2, 2018
Military members and their families have many educational benefits to choose from regardless of the branch of service. But not all education benefits are provided via the Post 9/11 GI Bill or the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Each branch of military service, including the Coast Guard, has its own unique education benefits directly or indirectly. Some of those are specifically for spouses and/or family members.
What do we mean by “indirectly”? These benefits are not always provided by the service itself. Non-profit agencies and other military-affiliated agencies often provide this assistance to the families of a specific branch of military service.
What follows are the service specific educational benefits not associated with the VA or the GI Bill. It doesn’t matter if you wear an Army uniform, work for the Air Force, the Navy, Marines, or the Coast Guard. There is financial help for the education of your spouse and college-age family members. In many cases, these programs are administered by not-for-profit or non-profit groups.
**Important note: all of the third parties linked to in this article work with the Department of Defense and/or the individual branches of military service. These agencies are not part of the government, but work in partnership with it.
Educational Scholarship and Grant Programs for U.S. Army Families
The Army Emergency Relief Spouse Education Assistance Program (SEAP)
SEAP is a need-based education assistance program designed to provide spouses and surviving spouses of active-duty soldiers living stateside. This program offers a variable amount per academic year for stateside college attendance. The maximum amount awarded in 2018 was just over $2,800.
Operated by a private company called Army Emergency Relief, this program is not an entitlement. Applicants are not automatically approved just because they potentially qualify.
The program is subject to available funding issues. Other variables may affect the number of approvals and the amount of funds issued via those approvals.
Those who get free tuition via their employers cannot get tuition reimbursement from SEAP. They may apply for financial help with fees, books, supplies, expenses, and other costs for approved coursework.
Qualifying military spouses must be enrolled, accepted, or pending acceptance as a full-time or part-time student. These benefits only apply at an accredited post-secondary or vocational institution listed in the US Department of Education’s Database of Accredited Post-secondary Institutions. Additionally:
- The military spouse must not have a prior bachelor’s degree
- The spouse must maintain a cumulative GPA of 2.0 on a 4.0 grading scale
- National Guard, Reserves, or other military branches are not eligible
- Student must be registered in DEERS and not already be fully funded elsewhere. According to the SEAP official site, “No student can receive funding above the school’s established Cost of Attendance – once all costs are covered, any remaining funds must be returned.”
Up to four years of scholarships are available for full-time students and eight years for part-time students.
The Army Emergency Relief (AER) James Ursano Scholarship Program for Dependent Children
The AER Major General James Ursano Scholarship Program is a need-based scholarship program for qualifying Army dependent children seeking their first undergraduate degree. This scholarship varies each year depending on demand, budget constraints, and other variables.
For the 2019-2020 academic year, these scholarships ranged from $500 to $3,400. There is a specific open season for applying for this scholarship. Once that season is closed, applicants must wait until the following open season to submit. AER scholarship funds for this program are submitted to the school directly. Funding is not provided for summer coursework.
Ursano Scholarship funds can be applied towards tuition, fees, books, supplies, and school room and board. Scholarship funds may be adjusted if the student is receiving financial assistance from another source. Qualifying criteria for this program includes:
- Must be a dependent of a Soldier on active duty, retired, or deceased
- Dependents of Army National Guard members who are employed more than 30 days
- Must be registered in DEERS
- Must be under the age of 24
- Student must remain unmarried for the entire academic year
- Must be enrolled, accepted, or pending acceptance as a full-time student in an institution listed in the US Department of Education’s Database of Accredited Post-secondary Institutions.
Like the AER scholarship for spouses, this is not an entitlement program and applications are not automatically approved.
Educational Scholarship and Grant Programs for Air Force Family Members
Air Force Aid Society General Henry H. Arnold Education Grant Program
This grant is described as “the centerpiece” of Air Force Aid Society (AFAS) education programs, offering need-based education grants to qualifying Air Force dependents of:
- active duty
- Title 10 AGR/Reserve
- Title 32 AGR performing full-time active duty
- Retired active duty
- Retired Reservists
- Deceased Air Force members.
Stateside military spouses of active duty members are welcome to apply for this Air Force Aid Society educational grant, as well as spouses of Title 10 AGR/Reservists, and surviving spouses of military members who have died.
The official site for the Arnold Education Grant states that the program is competitive and need-based. The “grants now range from $500 to $4,000 with the highest amounts going to the students with greatest demonstrated need.”
The application of this grant is limited to tuition, books and fees, and what the official site describes as “other direct expenses.” Learn more or apply for this Air Force Aid Society grant at the AFAS site.
Air Force Aid Society Merit Scholarship for Dependents and Spouses
Air Force Aid Society awards ten or more Merit Scholarships per year for qualifying dependent children, spouses of active duty, and retired Air Force members. Eligible recipients may receive up to $5,000 in scholarships.
The scholarship is awarded competitively based on grades and other requirements. This AFAS program is intended for freshmen students “who have already successfully completed both parts of the Arnold Education Grant application” according to the AFAS official site. Being awarded an Arnold Grant is not a pre-requisite, but applying for one is.
The selection process is not automatic. Students are vetted and chosen based on “cumulative GPA, high school transcripts and an essay written on a specified topic” according to the official site. The grant awards are announced each July with funds paid directly to the school. This grant may be used to pay tuition, fees, books, and materials as required.
Educational Scholarship and Grant Programs For U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps Families
The Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society offers qualifying Marine and Navy spouses a need-based program of grants and loans under its Education Assistance Program. These funds are available for two and four-year degrees, technical and vocational programs, and other approved educational opportunities.
The program is intended for spouses and children of active duty, retired, or deceased Navy/Marine Corps members. Eligibility requirements include, but are not limited to the following:
- A child under age 23 as of May 1, 2020 of an active duty, retired or deceased Sailor or Marine OR
- The spouse of an active duty or retired Sailor or Marine OR
- A Marine Enlisted Commissioning Education Program student.
You may apply for this program if you meet the criteria above, are registered in DEERS (Defense Eligibility Enrollment Reporting System), and are either enrolled or intend to enroll as a full-time student for the entire academic year.
The following eligible types of degree programs include undergraduate degrees, vo/tech classes, and other approved programs that are located in the United States. They are accredited by an approved agency and participate in the U.S. Department of Education Title IV Financial Aid Programs.
All applicants must have a 2.0 GPA or better and be able to demonstrate financial need. These grants and loans may range from between $500 and $3000 per academic year. They may only be used to pay for tuition, books, fees, and housing.
Each grant or loan must be re-applied for in successive years. Loans are paid via military payroll deductions which begin immediately upon loan disbursement. In the case of loans under this program, there are no interest payments. All deductions pay the principal of the loan amount.
Learn more or apply at the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society official site.
Educational Scholarship and Grant Programs For Coast Guard Families
The Coast Guard Foundation Spouse Education Grant
This grant is administered by the non-profit Coast Guard Foundation. They offer up to $500 per calendar year to help pay for school costs not covered by other programs. Books, transportation expenses, and school fees may be paid using this grant.
The funds are offered on a first-come, first-served basis. They should be seeking degrees by taking approved undergraduate or graduate courses or obtaining certificates and licensing.
Spouses of Coast Guard active duty enlisted members between the grades of E3 and E6 may apply. Spouses of Coast Guard Reservists may also qualify when the service member has been on “any type of active duty orders for at least one year in duration” according to the official site. Learn more or apply online.
Coast Guard Foundation Scholarship for Children of Enlisted Coast Guard Members and Veterans
Qualifying dependent children of active duty, retired, or active reserve Coast Guard members may apply for this scholarship. Their scholarship cycles pay between $1,000 and $5,000 per approved applicant.
Eligible students are unmarried children of enlisted Coast Guard members on active duty, retired, or deceased. Children of Coast Guard Reserve members may qualify if the military member has been on extended active duty of 180 days or longer.
Applicants must be in the DEERS system, be working toward a first degree, and all applicants must be 24 or younger when they apply. Unlike other programs, Coast Guard spouses are NOT eligible to apply, only dependent children.
Ineligible students include, but may not be limited to:
- Coast Guard Spouses
- Active duty Coast Guard members
- Children of commissioned officers to include warrant officers
- Those working on a second undergraduate degree, masters or doctorate
- Applicants pursuing a degree at an unaccredited institution
The Coast Guard Foundation Delta Dental Spouse Scholarship
Ten scholarships are awarded each year to non-military spouses of Enlisted Coast Guard members obtaining education or training in oral health and wellness.
Similar to other CG foundation scholarships, applicants must be non-military spouses to Coast Guard members ranks E-3 through E-6.
Reward amounts range upwards of $2,000 and are limited to one payment per calendar year.
Oral health and wellness studies include medicine, nursing, dentistry, yoga instructor certification, and home healthcare aide certification.
Coast Guard Reserve Families
Reservists and families pursuing higher education now have access to grant opportunities through Coast Guard Foundation and its partnership with the United Services Automobile Association (USAA.)
The Coast Guard Foundation’s USAA Scholarship rewards based on merit and need, and can cover expenses such as books, class fees, and electronic equipment.
Learn more or apply at the official site.
Joe 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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