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Pursuing a College Education While Your Spouse is on Active Duty

Pursuing a college education while your spouse is on active duty can be great way to advance your own career and keep you busy if he or she is away on tour. With additional education, you also improve your job prospects and your ability to help support the family if your spouse decides later on to return to school using GI Bill benefits.

Pursuing a college education while your spouse is on active duty presents some unique challenges. In the military you will constantly be moving and this makes it hard to attend and finish a traditional college or university. And if you have children and your spouse is deployed, you will be functioning as a single parent while attending school, which many people might find overwhelming. 

On the other hand, there are many resources available to you while your spouse is on active duty. These include: the military support system and community — especially if you live on base — access to free housing, health care and discounted goods at the commissary and a series of programs and scholarships that are available to help the spouses of active duty soldiers. You might also have time to study in the evenings if your spouse is oversees — something that is very difficult when your spouse is living at home.

Fortunately, there are Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (SOC) — a network of some 1,900 institutions designed to help meet the special educational circumstances of military soldiers and their families. Check with your Installation Educational Office to find out what is available to you as a military spouse.

Military spouses also have access to the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Educational Support (DANTES) Program. DANTES offers classes, degrees, equivalency testing and various types of certification programs to active duty soldiers. DANTES is designed for the military so the courses are flexible and many of them incorporate long distance learning through online courses. As a spouse you are eligible to use DANTES and many of these resources will be free.

There are several grants and various forms of financial aid available to you as a military spouse. You are eligible for the same Pell Grants and loans as any student pursuing higher education once you fill out and submit your financial aid application. In addition, there are grants that have been designed just for the spouses and dependents of servicemen. Check with your Installation Educational Office for a full list of these grants.

Some of the grants you may be eligible as a military spouse include:

  • The Air Force Aid Society (AFAS) General Henry H. Arnold Education Grant. Up to $2,000.
  • The General George S. Brown Spouse Tuition Assistance Program (STAP). An amount of up to $1,500 is awarded per academic year.
  • ThanksUSA Scholarship Program. Up to $3000.00.
  • Army Emergency Relief (AER) Scholarship Programs.
  • Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society's (NMCRS) Scholarship Programs.

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