Scholarships for Military Dependents and Families

Military dependents make many sacrifices for their loved ones. Scholarships and aid for military dependents can help them achieve their educational goals.

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by Heather Mullinix

Published on October 11, 2021 · Updated on March 18, 2022

Reviewed by Dr. Michael J. Kirchner

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Scholarships for Military Dependents and Families

In many ways, military families serve alongside their loved ones. They frequently move so they can all stay together. They endure deployments that place their loved ones in harm's way. They support their service members at home and while they are on a mission. As of 2018, military families included over 2.6 million spouses and dependents.

Military spouses and military children often face unique challenges when it comes to pursuing a college degree. Frequent moves can complicate completing a degree, and military spouses may find it difficult to gain occupational licensing in a new state. Children may end up applying to college with a hodgepodge of transcripts from multiple high schools.

Fortunately, scholarships for military dependents recognize the sacrifices of military families. Learn more about the financial challenges these families face. And find out about benefits, scholarships, and grants for military spouses dependents.

Unique Financial Challenges for Military Dependents and Families

Tuition

On average, college tuition, fees, room, and board cost about $24,620 in 2018-2019, up about $300 from the year before. Costs can vary widely depending on the location and type of school. Public four-year universities charged an average of about $20,600 compared to $10,950 for public two-year colleges and about $44,300 for private colleges.

Housing

For many students, the cost of housing can exceed what they pay for tuition. In California, the average cost of room and board in the state's public community colleges and university system ranged from about $8,510 to $13,770 in 2017. Financial aid might not consider these costs in student funding. Students may be able to minimize some of these costs by living at home or choosing online programs.

Frequent Moves

Most military families move every 2-3 years. While the military provides some benefits to offset the cost of a move, these changes in service location can stress a family budget. Military Times reports the average family pays $5,000 out of pocket for each move. Additionally, these frequent moves also can make it difficult for military spouses to find a job or advance their careers.

One-Family Income

About half of military personnel are married, but military spouses participate in the labor force at a lower rate than the general population. The unemployment rate for this group was almost triple the national rate, as of May 2017. Military spouses may encounter challenges transferring an occupational license from one state to another or finding a career in their field at a new base.

Uncertainty

Military families live with a lot of uncertainty, including deployments, moves, and federal regulations. Uncertainty in the U.S. Congress can affect military family budgets, including pay increases or government shutdowns. When a military service member leaves the armed services, families may struggle with how to replace the income.

Scholarships for military dependents can help these students complete their postsecondary education and pursue academic and career goals.

Scholarships for Military Dependents

Military dependents include children and spouses of personnel serving on active duty, in the reserves, or in the National Guard. Children of active-duty personnel often change schools frequently as they grow up. According to the USO, some military dependents attend 6-9 schools from kindergarten to high school graduation.

Scholarships for military dependents help students pay for their college education and reduce some of the barriers to higher education.

American Legion Legacy Scholarship


AMVETS Scholarship


Army Scholarship Foundation


Army Women's Foundation


Dolphin Scholarship Foundation


Folds of Honor Foundation


Samsung American Legion Scholarship


Scholarships for Military Children

Scholarships for Military Spouses

Military spouses include the husband, wife, or partner of a member of any branch of the U.S. armed services. About 53% of military spouses take part in the labor market compared to 76% of the general population. While 89% of military spouses have some college education, only 30% have completed a four-year degree. These military spouse scholarships can help them complete their education.

Allied Van Lines Military Scholarship


Army Aviation Association of America Scholarship


Army Nurse Corps Association Scholarship


MyCAA Scholarship Program


National Military Family Association


ThankUSA Special Military Spouse Scholarship


Wings Over America Scholarship Foundation

Grants for Military Dependents and Families

Coast Guard Supplemental Education Grant Program


Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant


Military Officers Association of America


Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society Education Assistance Program


Survivors' and Dependents' Educational Assistance

Additional Resources for Military Dependents and Families

This grassroots coalition brings together families of Blue Star families, Gold Star families, veterans, and patriotic organizations to support active-duty personnel, veterans, and their families. It offers information on childcare, legal questions, moving, and emotional support. Organizations affiliated with the Military Spouse Employment Partnership provide networking opportunities to help military spouses chart their education and career paths. In addition to the many organizations that work with Military OneSource, spouses also can access the help of a career coach. For roughly 50 years, this organization has advocated on behalf of military spouses and military dependents. In addition to military spouse scholarships and other financial support, the organization offers family retreats and summer camp programs. The U.S. Army works with these groups to communicate with families, share information, and connect people with resources. Each branch has a similar program to support families as they move to new posts, as units deploy overseas, or as families struggle with finances or other needs. The DOD offers a number of military spouse benefits and family programs to help support its 2 million uniformed service members. Find education and career opportunities, online learning resources, and financial literacy materials.

Frequently Asked Questions About Military Dependents and Families

Can military spouses go to college for free? true

Military spouses can access several funding resources to finance their education. Military service members and veterans can transfer unused Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to a spouse or child if they meet specific service requirements. The GI Bill helps pay for tuition and housing, and includes a textbook stipend for up to 36 months.

Other programs help military spouses pursue or complete their postsecondary education. Opportunities include MyCAA, which offers $4,000 over two years. Each of the military branches offers spouse assistance programs, as well. These programs may provide need-based scholarships, grants, or low-interest loans.

Can military spouses fill out the FAFSA? true

Anyone planning to attend a college, university, community college, or vocational college should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This form often marks the first step in applying for federal, state, or institutional financial aid. You should never pay to complete a FAFSA. Make sure you file through the U.S. Department of Education.

FAFSA results help schools determine how much a family can contribute toward educational costs and the amount of any unmet need. Schools use this information to develop a student aid report. Many scholarships consider financial circumstances and may require a copy of the student aid report from your school.

What is the Yellow Ribbon Program? true

The GI Bill pays the total cost of in-state tuition at public universities. If you plan to attend a private or out-of-state school, the program caps payments at $26,042 for the 2021-2022 school year. Schools participating in the Yellow Ribbon Program help make these institutions more affordable for military students by offering additional aid.

Schools must choose to participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program. Supplemental funding may vary by student level, with more benefits for students in master's or doctoral programs. Some schools may limit the number of students they support through the Yellow Ribbon Program each academic year, so be sure to apply early.

GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government website at https://benefits.va.gov/gibill/index.asp.


Featured Image: Ariel Skelley / DigitalVision / Getty Images

Military service members can use veteran education benefits to pay for college. Learn how to make the most of the benefits you've earned. Learn about resources for military students and student veterans available through the nation's top military-friendly colleges. ROTC can help you fulfill your personal and professional goals and pay for college. Check out our guide to learn more.