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Military Dependent Financial Aid

As the dependent of a veteran or an active duty member of the U.S. Armed Forces, you may be entitled to financial assistance to help you meet your educational goals.

Dependents are certainly welcome and eligible to apply for general financial aid as well, including Pell Grants and Stafford Loans. This guide, however, is focused on the benefits specific to military dependents.

Federal & State Assistance

The Montgomery GI Bill is the most common source of education funding for military dependents, although a number of state-sponsored assistance program are available as well.

Montgomery GI Bill

The Montgomery GI Bill is a multi-million dollar, federally funded program to assist veterans and their dependants with post-military life. The largest portion of the GI Bill budget is dedicated to education benefits, although the legislation also provides medical and health care benefits, housing benefits and other benefits of concern to veterans.

There are several programs within the Montgomery GI Bill that provide assistance to dependents of both active duty and veteran members of the military, including:

Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program (DEA)

The Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program (DEA) will provide up to 100% of the cost of tuition for full-time students enrolled in a degree or retraining program.

Sons, daughters and spouses of veterans who were killed or permanently disabled in action or are MIA are eligible to apply. Children must be between the ages of 18 and 26 to qualify for assistance. Husbands and wives have up to ten years to utilize their benefit from the date the VA determines them eligible for survivor benefits.


The National Defense Authorization Act for FY2002 authorized service members to transfer their education benefits to a dependent spouse or child(ren). To do so, the service member must receive approval from his or her individual service. Once transferred, the benefit is worth up to $40,000 for 4 years of full-time studies. The actual amount will be determined by your student status and by your parent’s/spouse’s status in the Armed Forces. To receive the maximum benefit, you must be enrolled full-time and complete your degree in no more than eight semesters.

State Sponsored Education Benefits

Many states offer educational benefits for family members of veterans, particularly for the children of deceased, MIA, POW, and disabled veterans.

Examples of state-sponsored education benefits include:

– Alaska offers free tuition for spouses or dependents of an Armed Services member who died in the line of duty or is listed as POW/MIA by the Department of Defense.

– Minnesota’s War Orphan Education Program grants children of deceased Minnesota war veterans free tuition and $350 per year for expenses at any state college, except for the University of Minnesota.

– New York’s Regents Award for Children of Veterans gives eligible candidates $450 per year for up to five years to assist with college expenses. The veteran parent must be deceased, disabled or POW/MIA.

– Tennessee’s Dependent Children’s Scholarship provides free registration, tuition and fees at any in-state public school for children of Armed Forces members killed or POW/MIA in World War II, Korea, Vietnam or the Persian Gulf.

Non-Government Aid

In addition to federal and state-sponsored education benefits for dependents of active duty and veteran service members, there are also a number of privately funded, service-specific organizations devoted to aiding military dependants.

Army Emergency Relief

Founded in 1942, Army Emergency Relief (AER) is a private, nonprofit organization focused on helping soldiers and their dependents. AER has a number of education assistance programs designed to help spouses and widow(er)s of soldiers to pursue their educational goals.

– The Stateside Spouse Education Assistance Program (SSEAP) is a need-based program that provides educational grants to qualified military spouses. Assistance is provided to spouses and widows(er)s of either active duty or retired soldiers, who are seeking to pursue education that will enhance their occupational opportunities. The maximum SSEAP award is $2,900 per academic year, and may be used to cover tuition, fees, and expenses. Awards decisions are based on demonstrated financial need.

– Overseas Spouse Education Assistance Program (OSEAP) is a need-based education assistance program that provides grants to qualified Army spouses residing with an active duty soldier in Europe, Korea, Japan and Okinawa Commands. The maximum OSEAP award is $2,500 per year and may not exceed more than half the cost of tuition. Award decisions are based on demonstrated financial need.

Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society

Founded in 1904, the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society (NMCRS) is a private nonprofit organization that provides financial assistance to needy family members of active duty and retired Navy and Marine Corp members. The NMCRS’ education programs help eligible family members with at least a 2.0 GPA to purse their academic goals. Award decisions are based solely on demonstrated financial need.

– Travers Loan Program provides from $500 to $3,000 per academic year in interest-free loans for dependent children and spouses of active duty and retired Navy and Marine Corps personnel.

– USS Tennessee Scholarship Fund provides grants of up to $2,000 per academic year for the dependent children of active duty and retired service members who are serving on or have served on the USS Tennessee.

– Spouse Tuition Aid Program (STAP) provides up to $2,000 per year in need-based grants to spouses residing with an active duty service member stationed outside the fifty United States. STAP will cover up to 50% of tuition for either undergraduate or graduated programs.

Air Force Aid Society

Founded in 1942, the Air Force Aid Society (AFAS) is a private, nonprofit organization providing assistance to spouses and children of active duty and retired members of the U.S. Air Force.

– The General Arnold Education Program provides $2,000-annual grants to eligible sons and daughters of active duty, retired and deceased members of the U.S. Air Force. The program, which has awarded 82,000 grants since 1988, is highly competitive and need-based.

– Spouse Tuition Assistance Program (STAP) provides up to $1,500-annual grants to spouses residing with an active duty service member stationed outside the fifty United States. STAP grants are need based and will cover no more than 50% of unmet tuition expenses.

Private Scholarships

Beyond federal and state sponsored programs and service-specific charitable organizations, education assistance for military dependents is also available from private funding sources.

ThanksUSA Scholarship Program

ThanksUSA is a private nonprofit organization dedicated to showing its gratitude to members of the U.S. military. Among its programs, ThanksUSA offers 1,000 scholarships a year to children and spouses of active duty military personnel, activated reservists and soldiers killed or injured in the line of duty. Scholarships range from $1,000 to $5,000 and may be applied to the cost of undergraduate study at any accredited two or four-year college. Qualified applicants must have and maintain at least a 2.5 GPA. Award decisions are based on applicants’ financial need, leadership and community service, and academic performance. Preference is given to students who have studied a foreign language.

Joanne Holbrook Patton Military Spouse Scholarship Program

Sponsored by the National Military Family Association (NMFA), the Joanne Patton Program grants scholarships ranging from $500 to $1,000 to the spouses of active duty, retired and reserve/guard members. Survivor spouses who have not remarried are also eligible to apply. Scholarship funds may be used to support education at post-secondary, graduate and professional training programs.

The Scholarships for Military Children Program

Sponsored by the Defense Commissary Agency, the Military Children Program provides a minimum of one $1,500 scholarship every year at each commissary location. More than one scholarship may be awarded based on the number of applicants and funding availability. Eligible applicants are the children of active duty, reserve, guard, retired or deceased military personnel. Applicants must be full-time students at a college or university with a minimum 3.0 GPA. If there is not a commissary at your installation, you may apply at the one that is closest to where you live.


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