How military families can save money on college expenses

Every year, college tuition and related expenses increase. This puts the possibility of a college education out of reach for many, unless you can get financial assistance. But there is good news if you're in the military. Military families have several options available to save money on tuition and other expenses.

Post 9/11 GI Bill
In certain instances, the new Post-9/11 GI Bill can be transferred to dependents for their use. In order to use the education benefits of the GI Bill, the dependent must be enrolled in the Defense Eligibility Enrollment Reporting System. Eligibility varies depending on the years of service, so check requirements carefully. For those eligible for retirement, additional service may be required to transfer benefits. The branch of service must approve the transfer, then the recipient needs to complete VA Form 22-1990e to apply for benefits.

My Career Advancement Account
A My Career Advancement Account is available for military spouses. The program provides a lifetime maximum of $6,000 to military spouses to pursue educational goals. Spouses must apply for the program and be accepted to an approved college, technical school or training program.

National Military Family Association Scholarship
The National Military Family Association provides scholarships to military spouses. The scholarships are for $1,000 and spouses may apply yearly. The application involves an essay relating to life in the military, and the only requirement to apply is a valid military ID. Spouses of all branches of service are eligible and encouraged to apply.

Commissary scholarships
The commissary, or grocery store, on post offers scholarships to military children and involves writing an essay. The scholarships vary in amount and are offered on an annual basis.

Education center
Most military posts have an education center available to all military members and their dependents. The education center staff can assist with study guides for prep tests and facilitate online learning classes. They also maintain information about scholarships and grants specifically available for military families. Many spouse clubs, family readiness groups and units have scholarship funds available for their members and member families.

Emergency relief scholarships
Every branch of service has their own emergency relief agency. This agency raises money from donations to help military families in emergency situations and provide funds for pursuing a college education. For example, Army Emergency Relief provides annual scholarships to Army dependents based on financial need.

With a little legwork and research into programs available for military dependents, military families can save money on college tuition, books and fees. There are many scholarship and grant programs available and not all are based on financial need of the family. Those interested should apply early and stay on top of the deadlines set for each program.
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