Scholarships for Military Spouses & Children

For many military spouses, pursuing an education is an uphill battle. In a recent study by the Department of Defense, 43% of military spouses expressed an interest in attending school; however, many stated that the steep cost education and financial difficulties were some of the main issues holding them back. As reported by the Journal of Financial Counseling and Planning, more than one-third of military families say they struggle to pay the bills every month due to many aspects of military life that affect financial management, including frequent relocation, a high unemployment rate among military spouses, and a difficult transition into civilian life.

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The Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense found that in 2012, around 25% of active duty civilian spouses were unemployed. For those spouses who are able to find employment, they are consistently underemployed within their fields when compared to their civilian counterparts. In 2014, the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University found that female military spouses’ average personal income was 38% less than their civilian counterparts, and that this had been a pattern throughout the previous decade. That’s an average of earning 62 cents to every dollar made by civilians.

Spouses of servicemembers face additional challenges in the workforce, mainly because military families relocate around 10 times more than the average civilian family. Not only does the deployment itself create a significant strain on finances, but frequent relocation makes it difficult for these individuals to continuously attend school and hold down a high-salary job. While some military spouses manage to find work in fields such as teaching, nursing, and other healthcare occupations that require state certification, they may find that this certification is not valid in certain states when it is time to relocate.

Military children likewise experience adversity due to the nature of their family situation. The deployment of a parent can result in extreme emotional distress, and children of active duty service members are more prone to develop behavioral health conditions when compared to children in the general population. Due to the high relocation rate among military families, many children end up suffering academically. The Department of Defense reports that on average, military children attend between seven to nine different schools before graduating. A 2011 study from the RAND Center for Military Health and Policy Research found that children with parents who had been deployed 19 months or more since 2001 had lower achievement scores across all school subjects.

Given all of these challenges, access to financial resources is necessary for many spouses and other dependents who have sacrificed their education or cannot afford to pursue higher education — a crucial path for those who plan on securing well-paying jobs and upward mobility.

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Several federally funded programs are available to help military spouses and children pay for a college education. The programs are designed to assist dependents in meeting the cost of tuition, books, fees and/or living expenses.

Military Spouse Careers Advancement Accounts

The MyCAA Scholarship program is a workforce development program providing up to $4,000 of tuition assistance to eligible military spouses pursuing degree programs, licenses, certification, or credentials leading to employment in high-demand, high-growth occupations. The program is open to spouses of service members on active duty in pay grades E-1 to E-5, W-1 to W-2 and O-1 to O-2. Recipients must be able to complete their coursework while their military sponsor is on Title 10 military orders.

Post-9/11 GI Bill

This is a VA-administered program established to provide service members and their dependents with up to 36 months of education training. Eligible servicemen must currently be on active duty, have at least 90 days of aggregate active duty service after Sept. 10, 2001, or have been honorably discharged or discharged because of a service-related disability. All unused benefits can be transferred to family members for programs including undergraduate and graduate programs, vocational training, licensing and certification reimbursement, and on-the-job training.

Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program

Survivors and dependents of veterans who are permanently and totally disabled due to a service-related condition, or those who died while on active duty, are eligible for up to 45 months of education and training benefits. The assistance can be used for undergraduate and graduate degree programs, certificate programs, apprenticeship, and on-the-job training. Children of veterans wishing to use this benefit must be between the ages of 18 and 26.

In-State Tuition

Active service members and their dependents making use of the GI Bill can attend any out-of-state public college or university while paying the in-state tuition rate. The current maximum tuition benefit is just over $20,000. Military families will have to come up with any additional funding for private or public universities costing more than that.

Financial Aid by Service Branch

ARMY

James Ursano Scholarship Program

Army Emergency Relief also administers the James Ursano Scholarship Program, which helps the children of Army soldiers pay for their first undergraduate degree. Applicants may receive the scholarship for up to four academic years as long as they meet the requirements, but must reapply each year. For the 2015-2016 year, the minimum award was $500 and the maximum was $3,300.

NAVY

Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society – NMCRS Education Assistance Program

The Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society was established to provide financial, educational, and other means of assistance to Sailors, Marines and their dependents. Interest-free loans and grants are offered to children or spouses of an active duty, retired, or deceased Sailor or Marine. The funds range from $500 to $3,000 per academic year and can be used to pursue undergraduate/postsecondary education at a two-year or four-year college, technical, or vocational institution in the United States.


Vice Admiral E.P. Travers Loan Program

The spouse and children of an active duty or retired Sailor or Marine are eligible for a loan from this program, which provides interest-free loans for education expenses. The loans can be used for tuition, books, fees, and room and board and range from $500 to $3,000 per academic year. The student must maintain a GPA of 2.0 or better and be enrolled full time.


USS TENNESSEE Scholarship Fund

This fund was established to provide scholarships for military children of active duty or retired service members who were assigned to duty aboard the USS TENNESSEE. The funds range from $500 to $3,000 per academic year and can be used to pursue undergraduate/postsecondary education at a two- or four-year college, technical, or vocational institution in the United States. The funds are paid directly to the academic institution, and the student must reapply every academic year.

AIR FORCE

Air Force Aid Society – General Henry H. Arnold Education Grant Program

The Air Force Aid Society was established to help Air Force members and their families weather financial distress and pursue their postsecondary education goals. This needs-based grant program is for spouses and children of active duty Air Force members, retirees, or deceased members pursuing an undergraduate degree full time. The grant funding ranges from $500 to $4,000. Students must maintain at least a 2.0 GPA and children must be below the age of 24 during the award year.

COAST GUARD

Coast Guard Mutual Assistance Education Loan Program

The spouses and children (under the age of 23) of CGMA clients are eligible for loans of up to $3,000 to assist with education expenses. The student must be enrolled in an associate, bachelor’s, graduate, or vocational education program. Qualifying clients include active duty Coast Guard military personnel, retired Coast Guard military personnel, and members of the Coast Guard Selected Reserve.

MARINES

The Marine Corp Scholarship Foundation

The children of Marine and Navy Corpsmen, including active duty and reserve U.S. Marine Veterans and U.S. Marines who have been honorably discharged, are eligible for scholarship funding. The student must be seeking to attain his or her first undergraduate degree, or a non-degree certificate program or vocational training of less than 12 months at a community college or other institution. Scholarships can be renewed up to three times as long as criteria are met for each year.

Unlike loans, scholarships are gifted aid that do not need to be repaid. They can be earned from a number of sources based on the recipient’s special skills, academic achievement, specific characteristics, financial need, and more. When applying for scholarships, the applicant will be required to provide a number of supporting documents, including essays, transcripts, letters of recommendation, etc. Among the gifting organizations are foundations, philanthropists, postsecondary institutions, nonprofits, and other private organizations.

Tips and Tricks

Gathering the correct information, applying the right strategy, and making your application stand out are all to improving your chances of getting a scholarship. Here are five tips to consider as you begin the application process.

Find the Right Scholarship for You – Make sure to read the fine print to ascertain that you are eligible for the scholarship to which you are applying.

Compile Your Accomplishments – Identify and note your strengths and accomplishments in a list. Be sure to give the list and your resume to any referees, who may work your tidbits into their submissions.

A Great Essay Defines You – Many scholarship applications require applicants to submit an essay, which gives the reviewers insight into who you are and why you are deserving of their beneficence. Get in the habit of writing as many as you can to fine-tune your skills and make a lasting impression.

Complete the Application in Full – Make sure to submit all of the documents required, neatly provide all the information, follow the deadlines and mail application to the right address.

Apply to as Many Scholarships as You Can – Play the numbers game. The more applications that you send out, the higher your chances of getting a scholarship are.

Consider the following resources for more tips and advice on how to fill out scholarship applications:

  • Sallie Mae How to Apply for Scholarships – Not just for student loans, Sallie Mae offers tips on how to make the most of your college scholarship applications.
  • Tips for Scholarship Applications and Personal Essays – This scholarship guide from San Diego City College offers extensive steps to take and how-to advice focused on the essay portion of the application.
  • Ten Tips for Winning a Scholarship – A team of higher education experts and college Board panelists compiled this list of best practices for the World Wildlife Fund’s Education of Nature program.
  • Top Ten Scholarship Tips – Indiana University South Bend posted the combined ‘cheat sheet’ of tips from FinAid and FastWeb for its students on the IUSB website.
  • How to Apply for a Scholarship – This list of tips and tricks on BigFuture by the College Board includes video testimonials from successful scholarship award winners.

Where to Find Scholarships

There are numerous places to look for scholarships, ranging from widely-known to unexpected sources. Below are just some examples of how and where to find the scholarships that are right for you:

  • Your college or university. While this may be the most obvious place to start your search, you may be surprised at how many scholarship opportunities are available. Consider contacting the financial aid office in addition to exploring school scholarships online or in-person, and make sure to explore both federal and school-sponsored options.
  • Foundations. Many non-profit and organizations are devoted solely to providing college scholarships and supporting higher education efforts. Though criteria may vary, foundational funding exists at both local and national levels for eligible college-bound students.
  • Local community organizations. Many local organizations and/or local branches of national organizations provide scholarship information to students in their community. Examples may include charity organizations, community recreation centers and civic/municipal government websites.
  • Religious Organizations. Your local church, mosque or synagogue may have community-sponsored or private scholarship opportunities for students within their congregation and/or studying in a major related to ministry, divinity or religious studies.
  • Local Employers. Many local business and/or corporations offer scholarships to students attending college in the area. Check with your employer, if applicable, or your parent(s) employer for current sponsorship opportunities.

Scholarships For Military Families

ThanksUSA

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Who’s eligible? Applicants must be spouses of U.S. military service personnel or dependent children under the age of 24, and should have at least a 2.0 cumulative GPA. The student must be enrolled or have plans to enroll full time at an accredited two- or four-year college, university, or vocational or technical school for the academic year.
Award amount: $3,000
Application deadline: May 15

AMVETS/University of Phoenix Scholarship

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Who’s eligible? This scholarship is for veterans, Active Duty, Guard/Reserves or qualifying family members to pursue a bachelor’s or master’s degree from the University of Phoenix.
Award amount: Full tuition
Application deadline: August 15

Tillman Military Scholarship

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Who’s eligible? A supplement to the Post 9-11 GI Bill, this scholarship covers tuition and books, and provides a living stipend for eligible service members, veterans, or military spouses to pursue undergraduate, graduate, or postgraduate degrees at a public or private US-based institution. The scholarship is renewable.
Award amount: Varies
Application deadline: March 1

Folds of Honor

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Who’s eligible? Spouses and Children of service members are eligible for this funding for education and training. Children are eligible for funding for school tuition, educational tutoring, an approved/accredited homeschooling curriculum, required books and school uniforms. Spouses enrolled or applying for enrollment at an accredited institution of higher learning are eligible for funding for tuition and books.
Award amount: $5,000, with reapplication each year
Application deadline: March 31

Marine Gunnery Sergeant John D. Fry Scholarship

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Who’s eligible? The Fry scholarship makes education benefits available to the surviving spouses and children of service members who die in the line of duty. An amendment to the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the scholarship pays full tuition and fees directly to the school for in-state students.
Award amount: Tuition and fees, capped at $20,235.02 per academic year for private and foreign institutions.
Application deadline: Anytime during the academic year

The Joseph A. McAlinden Divers Scholarship Program

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Who’s eligible? Those studying oceanography, ocean agriculture, or aquaculture are eligible for this needs-based scholarship for the children and spouses of active-duty Navy or Marine divers. The student must be enrolled full time for the entire academic year and pursuing a first undergraduate degree at an accredited institution.
Award amount: Ranges from $500 to $3,000 depending on need
Application deadline: Anytime during the academic year

Fleet Reserve Association (FRA) Education Foundation Scholarships

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Who’s eligible? Spouses and children of FRA members in good standing are eligible for a wide range of scholarships. Recipients must be U.S. citizens and be full-time students at a U.S. accredited college or university.
Award amount: Varies
Application deadline: April 15

Alabama G. I. Dependents Scholarship Program

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Who’s eligible? Alabama residents who are the spouses or children of military veterans who were honorably discharged, disabled, or killed in the service of their country are eligible. The recipient will receive five standard academic years (10 semesters) of free tuition at any Alabama state-supported institution of higher learning.
Award amount: Varies
Application deadline: August 1 (Fall semester)

Daniel Drevnick Memorial Fund

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Who’s eligible? Residents of Minnesota or Wisconsin who are the spouses or dependents of military veterans who served after September 11, 2001 are eligible. Student must be enrolled in a law enforcement program at a technical college or university and will be required to submit a transcript.
Award amount: Varies
Application deadline: Year-round

Navy Seal Foundation Scholarships

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Who’s eligible? Scholarship opportunities are available to active duty service members, their spouses and dependent children. The scholarship are for one- to four-year grants for education, vocational, certificate, and leadership programs. The scholarships are awarded based on factors including GPA, SAT, scores and volunteerism.
Award amount: Varies
Application deadline: To be announced

The Donaldson D. Frizzell Scholarship

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Who’s eligible? Open to members of the U.S. uniformed services (active, reserve and retired), their spouses and dependents, this scholarship covers tuition for an associate, undergraduate, graduate, or professional certification program. Applicants must have a minimum GPA of 3.0.
Award amount: Varies
Application deadline: April 14

The Military Order of the Purple Heart Scholarship

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Who’s eligible? The child or spouse of a member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH), or Veterans killed in action who did not get an opportunity to join MOPH, are eligible to apply. The student must be accepted by or enrolled as a full-time undergraduate student at an accredited U.S. college, university, or trade school.
Award amount: Varies
Application deadline: January 22

Army Nurse Corps Association Scholarship Program

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Who’s eligible? Nursing or anesthesia students with a parent, spouse, or child who is serving or has served in the U.S. Army are eligible. The student must be a U.S. citizen in a bachelor’s or graduate degree program in nursing, anesthesia, or related healthcare field.
Award amount: $3,000
Application deadline: March 31

The Jack E. Barger, Sr., Memorial Nursing Scholarship Fund

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Who’s eligible? The child or spouse of a veteran or active duty service member who is a resident of Pennsylvania and an undergraduate nursing student is eligible. The scholarship, established to address the state’s nursing shortage, requires the recipient to attend the local VFW meeting to accept the scholarship.
Award amount: $1,000
Application deadline: March 30

The Edward T. Conroy Memorial Scholarship Program

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Who’s eligible? The spouse or child of a member of the United States Armed Forces who died or is disabled as a result of military service is eligible. Student must reside in Maryland and enroll full time or part time at a two- or four-year Maryland college/university as an undergraduate or graduate student.
Award amount: Not exceeding annual tuition
Application deadline: July 15

Salute to Spouses

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Who’s eligible? Scholarships for military spouses of active duty personnel are available to be used for full-time or part-time online associate or bachelor’s degree programs at Bryant and Stratton College. In addition to an application form, applicants must submit an essay and required documentation of their spouse’s service.
Award amount: $6,000, paid in increments for each consecutive semester
Application deadline: Varies

National Military Family Association

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Who’s eligible? The National Military Family Association (NMFA) has partnered with the Washington University School of Law to offer scholarships for military spouses to enroll in the Master of Legal Studies program to earn a master’s degree in 12 months. Mention NMFA when applying online, or call 1+314-281-5200 for more details.
Award amount: $7,500
Application deadline: Varies

National Military Family Association

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Who’s eligible? NMFA has partnered with Syracuse University to offer a $7,500 scholarship for military spouses who want to pursue a master’s of science degree in accounting. The program is hosted live online in a collaborative, face-to-face environment. Mention NMFA when applying online, or call 1-844-797-4622 for more details.
Award amount: $7,500
Application deadline: Varies

Hope for the Warriors

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Who’s eligible? Military spouse scholarships are available for wounded, injured, or killed service members. The program seeks to recognize spouses who have demonstrated “exceptional strength, fidelity and resolve despite adversity.” The spouse must be enrolled in or have applied to an accredited university, college, or trade school.
Award amount: Varies
Application deadline: May 31

Career Step

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Who’s eligible? This online provider of career-focused education is offering full-ride military spouse scholarships for any of its online career certificate programs in a number of rewarding fields, such as medical coding and billing, medical administrative assisting, and pharmacy technician. Career Step is a partner of the Military Spouse Employment Partnership.
Award amount: Full-ride for one program
Application deadline: April 30

The Legacy Scholarship

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Who’s eligible? High school seniors or graduates who are sons or daughters of parents who died while on active-duty military service on or after Sept. 11, 2001 are eligible for this scholarship. It helps pay for tuition as recipients work toward an undergraduate degree, as well as books, room and board, and other supplies.
Award amount: Varies
Application deadline:April 1

Fisher House Scholarship for Military Children

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Who’s eligible? Unmarried children of active military duty personnel, reserve/guard and retired military members, or survivors of service members who died while on active duty are eligible for this scholarship. The dependent, who must be under the age of 23, must be enrolled, or planning to enroll, in a full-time undergraduate degree program at an accredited U.S. college or university.
Award amount: $2,000
Application deadline: February 12

Daedalian Foundation Descendants Scholarship

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Who’s eligible? The Order of Daedalians helps the descendants of its members in the fields of aerospace engineering and flight, and encourages them to pursue careers in the military. The foundation awards the scholarships annually to eligible students nominated by Daedalian Flights or submitted directly by the descendant to the foundation’s scholarship committee.
Award amount: $2,000
Application deadline: Varies

Military Child of the Year Award

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Who’s eligible? This scholarship for military children recognizes applicants aged eight to 18 who are resilient and demonstrate leadership and achievement in their communities. Applicants must be the legal dependent child of a service member and have valid military ID or currently be enrolled in the DEERS program.
Award amount: $10,000, a laptop and trip to Washington, D.C. for a Gala ceremony
Application deadline: December 1

New Hampshire Department of Higher Education

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Who’s eligible? The New Hampshire Scholarships for Orphans of Veterans provides scholarships to students whose parent(s) died while a New Hampshire resident, and while on active duty in the U.S. armed services in a combat situation. Eligible students are between the ages of 16 and 25. They must be legal residents of New Hampshire, where they plan to attend college/university.
Award amount: Varies
Application deadline: Varies

Like scholarships, grants are gifted aid. But while scholarships are often merit-based, grants are often need-based. They are available through the federal government, state government, and through various nonprofit and civic organizations. When applying for federal grants, such as the Pell Grant, the applicant must first fill out a FAFSA to generate an expected family contribution. State grants and those from nonprofits will have their own requirements and vary widely.

Pell Grants

The Pell Grant is provided by the U.S. federal government and is typically awarded to undergraduate students who have not yet earned a bachelor’s degree or a professional degree. This grant often makes up the foundation of a student’s financial aid package, and some choose to apply for other types of aid on top of it. Eligible candidates should hold a high school diploma or GED. The amount of aid awarded will depend on the student’s financial need (as demonstrated by their completed FAFSA form), tuition fees, and other factors.

State Government Grants

These are funded by state and local governments and awarded based on criteria such as demographics, high-demand career fields, etc. It is a good idea to review your state’s website to look for links to the board of education, social services, and other state agencies where grant opportunities may be available.

Private Grants

Educational institutions, civic organizations, companies, and philanthropists all provide grant opportunities for students. These grants are often career-specific, and students who come from low-income families or military families are sometimes given preference.

Grants for Military Families

Operation Education

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Who’s eligible? The University of Idaho has grant scholarships for the spouses of severely injured U.S. military personnel. The military personnel must have sustained permanent disability while serving since September 11, 2001.
Award Amount: Tuition at the university
Application Deadline: Varies

Columbia College Coast Guard Spouse Grant

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Who’s eligible? Missouri-based Columbia College offers 50% tuition grant for in-seat or online undergraduate courses. It is available to spouses of active duty Coast Guard and Coast Guard Reserve members with a pay grade of E1-E5, CW02, and 01-02. The institution also has 20% tuition discounts for the spouses of active duty military personnel for in-person undergraduate classes.
Award Amount: Tuition at the university
Application Deadline: Varies

Veterans Tuition Waiver - Connecticut

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Who’s eligible? This program helps the surviving spouses of military service personnel who were killed in the line of duty after September 11, 2001, pursue the educational aspirations. While not entirely a grant program, it provides financial assistance for tuition at the University of Connecticut and in the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system.
Award Amount: Tuition
Application Deadline: Varies

Military Officers Association of America - General John Paul Ratay Educational Grants

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Who’s eligible? Students under age 24 who are children of the surviving spouse of a retired officer are eligible for this grant. They must be planning to attend an accredited college or university as a full-time student.
Award Amount: $5,000
Application Deadline: March 1

Capital One Military Network Scholarship Program

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Who’s eligible? This program is designed to offer financial assistance to talented Virginian high school seniors with a parent who is an active duty service member. The grants are awarded to students who have displayed academic excellence and leadership in their communities.
Award Amount: $5,000
Application Deadline: April 29

Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant

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Who’s eligible? This federal grant is available to students with a parent who died as a result of military service in Iraq or Afghanistan after September 11, 2001. Students under 24 who do not qualify for Pell Grants are eligible and must fill out an application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Award Amount: Maximum grant award for the 2013–2014 award year was $5,645
Application Deadline: Varies

37th Davidson Veterans Association

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Who’s eligible? This program provides grant scholarships to assist veterans and descendants of veterans of the 37th Infantry Division (37th ID) in obtaining post-high school and advanced education.
Award Amount: Varies
Application Deadline: May 1

Briarcliffe College Yellow Ribbon Grant

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Who’s eligible? New York-based Briarcliffe College has grants for those who are the dependents of eligible veterans. The Yellow Ribbon Grant, established as a provision of the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008, provides tuition and fees on any of its campuses. Applicants must apply and be accepted for admission to Briarcliffe College to be eligible.
Award Amount: Full tuition and fees
Application Deadline: TBA

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Additional Ways to Save

Air Force Play Pass gives deployed members with families play passes for learning and recreational activities that can help destress.

Army Reserve Child Youth and School Services helps parents learn about child care solutions, school support, community-based partnerships, unit, and command support.

Sitter City connects you to local in-home caregivers. Membership is free to military families.

Disability.gov provides parents of children with special needs information about disability-related programs, benefits, etc.

  • Regional VA Offices The VA provides military members and their families with information about benefits and services.
  • Spouse Education and Career Opportunities (SECO) Run by the Department of Defense, SECO is designed to help military spouses explore career goals. It offers support with information about education programs, financial aid options, and help in transferring credits.
  • U.S. Department of Education Provides billions of dollars in financial aid to qualified students each year.
  • National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies Having teamed up with the U.S. Army to provide health care resources, this agency is designed to meet the unique needs of military families.
  • CareerOneStop Centers Run by the U.S. Department of Labor, CareerOneStop provides expert advice on the qualifications you need for your chosen career, career exploration resources, and a wealth of other education and training-related information.
  • MilSpouse.org Run by the U.S. Department of Labor, MilSpouse is an online resource library for military spouse education, employment, and relocation information.