What Financial Aid Is Available for Military Dependents?

Significant financial aid is available for military dependents, like the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Education Assistance Program, parts of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and branch-specific aid and loans. If you’re a military dependent looking for financial resources for college, you have many options to pursue. The VA, military branch foundations, or state aid and scholarships are all great resources in your search for assistance.

Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program (DEA)

The DEA benefits are part of the Montgomery GI Bill and are specifically created for dependents of service members. If you began using this program before August 1, 2018, you can receive up to 45 months, otherwise the new standard is 36 months. How much money you’re awarded depends on the course load you take while in school.

The 2020/2021 academic year rates for institutional training are as follows:

  • Full time student: $1,224 per month
  • 3/4 time student: $967 per month
  • 1/2 time student: $710 per month
  • Greater than 1/4 time student: $710 per month
  • 1/4 time student or less: $306 per month

Once you choose a school or a training program, communicate with the VA to ensure it qualifies for these benefits.

Post-9/11 GI Bill

The Post-9/11 GI Bill is available to service members who served at least 90 days of active duty since September 10, 2001. Service members are allowed to transfer all or a portion of their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to family members.

Depending on the length of service, the bill covers between 40-100% of tuition, housing, books, and in certain situations, relocation. The benefits are good for 36 months of education.

In order to be eligible to transfer benefits, service members must have:

  • At least 6 years of service and agree to service 4 more years
  • At least 10 years of service and can’t commit to 4 more years due to regulation

Important note: Effective Jan. 12, 2020 service members with less than 16 years of active duty or selected reserve service will be eligible to transfer GI Bill benefits.

Branch-Specific Aid

The branches of the military have programs set up to assist the dependents of service members from those branches. Each one offers financial aid for post-secondary education for spouses and/or children of service members. Each type of aid has specific eligibility requirements that you should check before applying.

Army Emergency Relief

The Army Emergency Relief (AER) offers two scholarships; the Spouse Education Assistance Program and MG James Urbano Scholarship Program for Dependent Children. The Spouse Education Program awards vary each year. In the 2018-2019 academic year awards ranged from $500 to $2,200. The awards for the MG James Urbano Scholarship also vary each year, the 2018-2019 academic awards ranged from $500 to $3,400.

Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society

The Travers Loan Program – Offers dependent children and spouses of active duty or retired Sailors or Marines a $500 to $3,000 interest-free loan. Qualified applicants can get one of these loans each academic year while maintaining a GPA of at least 2.0.

The Spouse Tuition Aid Program – Offers grants of up to $3,000 each year for spouses of active duty Sailors or Marines who live outside of the U.S. with active-duty service members.

Air Force Aid Society

Three types of aid are available from the Air Force Aid Society:

The General Henry H. Arnold Education Grant Program – Offers grants up to $4,000 per academic year. The need-based grant is available to children and spouses.

The AFAS Merit Aid Scholarship – The Air Force Aid Society awards a minimum of 10 scholarships worth $5,000 to freshmen.

The Supplemental Education Loan Program – A no-interest loan for up to $1,000.

Coast Guard Foundation and Coast Guard Mutual Assistance

The Coast Guard Foundation offers grants both to spouses of active duty enlisted service members and Coast Guard children. The Coast Guard Mutual Assistance program offers a supplemental education grant, assistance with Stafford Loans, and interest-free loans up to $2,000.

This school assistance does not mean you should forego filling out the FAFSA® and discovering what other kinds of aid you qualify for. Paying for college is difficult for many families, and pursuing all your financial assistance avenues will help cover those education costs.

State Benefits

Many states offer financial aid benefits to military dependents. Do research on the benefits available in your state or through the US Military. Some examples include the War Orphan Education Program in Minnesota, the Regents Award for Children of Veterans in New York, and the Dependent Children’s Scholarship in Tennessee.

In Alaska, the spouses and dependents of service members who died in service or who have POW or MIA status get free tuition.

Local governments and private institutions also offer scholarships that military dependents can apply for. Find scholarships for which you fit the eligibility criteria and submit your applications to further supplement your financial aid.

Private Scholarships

Many independent agencies offer scholarships to military dependents, including the Defense Commissary Agency, the Joanne Holbrook Patton Military Spouse Scholarship, and the ThanksUSA Scholarship Program.