Category Archives: Military spouse education

Update: Military Spouse Employment and Education Advocacy

military spouse education and employmentAs an Association, one of our top priorities is to ensure that military spouses are able to pursue their education and continue professional career development that works with the military lifestyle.

We highlighted these priorities in our testimony that was submitted for the record on April 17 to the Senate Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Military Personnel, and asked Congress to take steps to support military spouses in their pursuit of personal and professional growth.

Here’s what we covered in our testimony regarding military spouse employment and education initiatives:

  • Collaborative work between the three Department of Defense Spouse Education and Career Opportunity (SECO) program components to include the Military Spouse Career Center at Military OneSource, Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP), and My Career Advancement Accounts (MyCAA) Program
  • The reinstatement of the MyCAA program to include all military spouses regardless of the service member’s rank
  • The extension of the MyCAA program to spouses of the Coast Guard, the Commissioned Corps of NOAA, and the U.S. Public Health Service
  • Expansion of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit for employers who hire military spouses
  • A tax credit to military spouses to offset the cost of obtaining a new license or credential when the service member is relocated to a new duty station
  • Reciprocity of professional licenses or alternative license arrangements across state lines

For the latest information on our advocacy efforts and support for military spouse employment and education initiatives, please visit our website’s policy issues section or subscribe to Military Family Topics to have updates delivered to your inbox.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up-to-date with the latest news concerning military families and tell us what you’re seeing in your community.

ccPosted by Christine Gallagher, Government Relations Deputy Director at the National Military Family Association

Military families: did you know you can take a free college or language course online?

Military spouses: take a college course or learn a language online, for free!Military families face tough decisions when selecting a higher education program. Location, scholarships, standardized tests, getting accepted, and selecting the right program are just a few reasons to postpone taking the step.

The good news is that now military families everywhere, and anybody else interested, can enjoy free courses by professors at renowned universities across the United States. Harvard, Colombia, UCLA, Duke, Princeton, and Stanford are just a few of the universities accessible to all students.

The courses are available through online platforms where prospective students enroll by simply creating a login and joining a class, absolutely free. One of the top websites for free education, and my personal favorite, is Coursera. There is a wide variety of classes, ranging from computer sciences and finance to healthcare and entrepreneurship.

Once you join a class, you have access to the video lectures posted by the professors, weekly assignments and quizzes. You can also join discussion forums and even meet fellow students living in your area. Courses can last anywhere between two to 12 weeks and students can enroll in as many courses as they feel comfortable. There are always new courses that open up and with more than 300 courses to choose from, you cannot miss a class that you like.

Apart from being free, another important benefit is that you can take them at your own convenience. All you need is a computer and an internet connection and you can take the classes from virtually anywhere in the world, 24/7. While these courses are not accredited by the respective universities, upon successful completion of a course, students will receive a certificate signed by the professor. This certificate can be a great addition to your resume and enhance your educational and professional development.

Another website for free education is Udacity. The website was created by Stanford professionals and only offers courses in science- and math-related topics. One highlight of the classes offered is that they are free of deadlines and quizzes.

A third option is Open Culture. This is a cultural and educational media with an impressive collection of over 400 courses. Plus, students can watch free classic movies.

For those that would like to learn a foreign language for free, Memrise might just be the perfect option. Memrise offers access to a variety of languages including sign language, and various other education topics.

No matter which site you choose, you have the opportunity to discover the course of study you want to pursue absolutely free. In addition to broadening your horizons and gaining knowledge on a topic, the achievement certificate you receive upon successful completion of some courses can turn out to be a useful tool when searching for a job. Be sure to visit the Spouse Education section of our website for more information on pursuing your education goals.

What courses will you enroll in this week?

Marlis Perez RiveraPosted by Marlis Perez Rivera, Volunteer with the National Military Family Association

Tips for using the Post-9/11 GI Bill: get ready for some paperwork!

Tips for using the Post-9/11 GI BillOne of the key factors to pursing your educational goals is to decide how you will pay for your education. Military spouses have several opportunities to help offset the cost of school, including private scholarship programs, federal loans and grants, MyCAA, and transferability of the Post-9/11 GI bill.

When I decided to pursue a graduate degree, my active duty service member decided to transfer a portion of his Post-9/11 GI bill to me. As of August 1, 2009, service members who have served in the Armed Forces for six years and agree to serve an additional four years, are eligible to transfer their benefit to a spouse. My spouse was eligible to receive 100% of this benefit. In my situation, the benefit pays full tuition and fees directly to the public in-state school I attend. I also receive a yearly book stipend of up to $1,000, prorated based on the number of credits I take. I am not eligible to receive a monthly housing allowance because I’m using the benefit while my husband is on active duty and he currently receives a housing allowance for our family. (Private school tuition and fees are capped at a national maximum rate. For the 2012 – 2013 academic year the private school cap is $18,077.50.) But these are my circumstances – how can you make the Post-9/11 GI Bill work for you?

Transferring the Post-9/11 GI bill takes time. Be prepared to work with your spouse to complete quite a bit of paperwork. While your spouse is on active duty, he or she may apply to transfer their benefit to a spouse, child, or children. Your spouse must submit a Transfer Educational Benefit request for Service approval. This may take several weeks to process. Once approved, the family member using the transferred benefit must apply to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)  by using form 22-1990e found on the Veterans On-Line Application (VONAPP) website. The VONAPP website is a bit clunky to use. After you create a username and password, you’ll need several important pieces of information to complete this form including: your educational history, name, address, degree program for the school you’ve selected, and bank account information (for direct deposit for the book stipend and/or living allowance).

I waited (patiently) for about five weeks before I received a “certificate of eligibility.” At the same time my husband received a letter notifying him that the VA had received the Transfer of Entitlement (TOE) application and that by applying for TOE he revoked his eligibility for other GI bill programs, such as the Montgomery GI Bill.

I then submitted a copy of my certificate of eligibility to my school’s VA-certifying official. Next, I registered for classes and then the VA-certifying official certified my enrollment with the VA. Certifying enrollment was about a four week process. Your school will only receive funds after your enrollment (which really means registration) has been certified. You may have fees added to your account if you do not pay your tuition by the tuition due date. My school was familiar with the VA’s process and waived all extra fees on my account.

I did drop one class during the add-drop period. Even though I was within my school’s add-drop period, the VA had already sent my tuition to the school based on the classes I was registered to take. About six weeks after my semester started I received a letter from the VA stating they had overpaid my benefits and I was now responsible for the debt. I sent this letter to my school’s VA-certifying official and my school will send the funds back to the VA. If there is an over-payment  you are responsible to repay this debt to the VA.

My tips for effective use of the Post-9/11 GI bill are:

  • Apply for the benefit early – it takes several weeks to process.
  • Bookmark the www.gibill.va.gov website. Contact information and the FAQ section are especially helpful.
  • Get to know your school’s VA-certifying official (your school may have a designated VA office).

The ability to transfer the Post-9/11 GI bill has afforded me the opportunity to attend school. I plan to be a good steward of this benefit and am looking forward (in the distant future) to completing my Master’s degree!

Are you using the Post-9/11 GI bill? What advice would you give to military families on how best to use this benefit?


Keep in mind that rules are not the same when transferring a benefit to a spouse vs. to a child. Please see www.gibill.va.gov for official information and details specific to your situation.

katiePosted by Katie Savant, Government Relations Information Manager at the National Military Family Association and USC Sol Price MPA candidate

It’s not too late to figure out what you want to be when you grow up

It's not too late to figure out what you want to be when you grow upAs a kid we knew what we wanted to be when we grew up. Well, we had to have an answer – we were asked the question all the time.  Although, in my case, I didn’t know. Not until I was about 30 years old.

I married my husband in college and was thrust into military life right after we graduated. I only worked for about 18 months at the beginning of his career. Then we relocated overseas and within three years I had two beautiful children. This was my life. Mom, wife, military spouse.

When my husband started training and gearing up for long deployments, I knew I needed to get involved. So I started volunteering. Within two years I knew I wanted to support other military families. There was a need, and I loved it so much. It was a perfect fit.

When the FINRA Military Spouse Fellowship applications opened through the National Military Family Association in 2010, I applied. Having an undergraduate degree in psychology, I thought the idea of financial counseling sounded very interesting.  After finishing the program in about 11 months, I realized that not only did I have a passion for supporting military families, but I loved financial counseling. So, here it was—the career I always wanted with the passion I already had.

With our relocation to the National Capital Region, I found a position with the Consumer Federation of America as the Military Saves Coordinator. Now, I am in charge of a program that affects military families on a broad scale. I am able to use my knowledge as a financial counselor, military spouse, and all those years as a volunteer to support military families’ financial well being.

The FINRA Military Spouse Fellowship was instrumental in helping me develop a successful career path. Opportunities like this for military spouses are priceless. I am so thankful for organizations like FINRA Foundation, National Military Family Association, the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education, and the Department of Defense that tirelessly work to provide these opportunities.

As we move to our next location, the skills and experience provided by the Fellowship give me confidence to pursue a mobile career—a welcome advantage in meeting that challenging feat.

The 2013 FINRA Investor Education Foundation’s Military Spouse Fellowship Program is now accepting applications. Learn more about this opportunity and apply today!

Posted by Andia Dinesen, AFC ®, Military Saves Coordinator, FINRA Military Spouse Fellowship Recipient, military spouse, and mother of two

Military spouse education: the costs, the options, and whether it’s right for you

military spouse educationThe same story is told throughout military communities and within military support systems—military spouses are hard pressed to find employment. PCS moves are frequent and jobs come and go. Luckily there is a way to help combat the unemployment woes. Education.

Not only will a higher education increase the chances of employment for military spouses, it will contribute to your family’s financial well-being. A study from CollegeBoard.org reports, “the typical bachelor’s degree recipient can expect to earn about 66% more during a 40-year working life than the typical high school graduate earns over the same period. Higher earnings are one of the important outcomes of higher education. Average earnings for adults increase with years of education and particularly with degree completion.” Higher education degrees are now more accessible to military spouses thanks to distance learning programs.

The education community has shifted in favor of military spouses. Many private and public universities offer reputable degree programs online, an attractive option for mobile military spouses. Distance learning can also be more flexible when it comes to your military family calendar. Find additional information on pursuing a degree in higher education in our website section on spouse education.

One necessary price I know of that comes with education is the cost of tuition. To alleviate the inevitable costs of higher education, military spouses have options. Visit your installation’s Family Center, Education Center, and the financial aid office at the school you wish to attend for more information on financial assistance. Various military associations, including the National Military Family Association and some military spouse clubs, offer scholarships for military spouses. If eligible, you can use a portion of your service member’s GI Bill or apply for government funding through MyCAA.

The National Military Family Association is made up of many military spouses like me, so we know firsthand the importance of military spouse education and the difficulties that come with achieving higher education due to moves and expenses. If you’ve been following us on our website or social media, you know our Joanne Holbrook Patton Military Spouse Scholarships are awarded to spouses of all Uniformed Services members and applications are live online now. The application deadline is TOMORROW, January 31st – there is still time to apply here!

I truly believe an education outweighs the cost that comes with more schooling. As a military spouse, my education has broadened my career options and allowed me pursue opportunities that would not be available if I did not have a degree.

Are you starting or continuing your education? What challenges have you faced in doing so and what resources have worked for you?

alliePosted by Allie Jones, Military Spouse Scholarship Program Manager at the National Military Family Association

Looking back at 2012

National Military Family Association: A look back at 2012Where does a year go? It’s amazing to see the months fly by, filled with memorable occasions like weddings, road trips, big moves, and deployments. 2012 was a year of change, new ideas, and growth for the military community, and for us as well! Here’s how we spent our year.

Sometimes it seems like if something can go wrong, it will. Or when it rains, it pours. Whichever idiom you want to apply, 2012 brought a few unexpected lemons for us to make into lemonade. From the close call of a government shutdown in April, threats to commissary benefits, and the fiscal cliff negotiations in December, we were proud to be  the place military families turned to understand the impact of these actions and find out what could be done in response. It’s nice to know that no matter what comes our way, our community always makes it to the other side of the issue infinitely stronger.

With almost everyone and their grandma (literally) having a smart phone or social media account, these days it seems like we are more connected than ever. Military families are no different, and this year we created a few new ways to provide resources and support via the most-used platforms. Although we are all part of the same community, each military family faces its own challenges going through the many different stages and phases of life. Whether a family is preparing to move, expecting a baby, or anticipating a deployment, our new app, MyMilitaryLife, brings our subject matter expertise and important resources when and where it’s most needed. We’ve had nearly 4,000 downloads from the iTunes and GooglePlay stores, and with six more life paths being added in 2013, we look forward to growing our presence on this new mobile platform.

We are committed to providing spouses and families with the resources and programs needed to make military life a bit easier. We awarded $448,000 in scholarship funds to military spouses beginning or continuing their education through our Joanne Holbrook Patton Military Spouse Scholarship Program. Our Operation Purple® program had another great season, sending 1,581 military kids to camp across the country. With so many service members returning from deployment, creating a network of support during this period of change and adjustment was more important than ever. We held six Family Retreats and four Healing Adventures for families with a wounded or returning service member who needed to ease into the reintegration process after a deployment.

It went by fast, but 2012 was a productive and fulfilling year. We’re excited to see where 2013 takes us—stay tuned for a companion post on the Association’s goals for the year.

Your turn: what would you like to see us focus on this year?

maranathaPosted by Maranatha Bivens, Communications Editor at the National Military Family Association

Military spouse scholarship: apply now!

Have you finally found the time (or energy) to head back to school, but aren’t sure how you will pay for it? Apply for a scholarship! Our Joanne Patton Holbrook Spouse Scholarship program application period is open now through January 31st. Spouses of all Uniformed Service members, including active duty, National Guard and Reserve, retirees, wounded, and survivors, are eligible to apply. Scholarships can be used for many types of programs, be it finishing your GED, or completing those last few requirements for your master’s degree. Don’t let money be the thing that holds you back from pursuing your dream career!

Apply for a military spouse scholarship at www.militaryfamily.orgAstin Laferriere, the spouse of an Army National Guardsman stationed in North Carolina, was a recipient of our scholarship in 2012. Astin is a graduate of Tennessee State University and she recently obtained her Physical Therapy license. Way to go Astin!

Licensing scholarships were a focus of our program in 2012 because we recognize the challenges that military spouses face in obtaining and maintaining licensing or certification. Read about how we’re speaking out on this topic in Congress here.

In last year’s scholarship program, we were able to assist more than 60 spouses like Astin. Applications for the 2013 Joanne Holbrook Patton Military Spouse Scholarship program are available now!

Military spouses: what obstacles have you run in to while pursuing your education? What are your educational or employment goals?

maranathaPosted by Maranatha Bivens, Communications Editor at the
National Military Family Association