Does the Military Pay for College for Spouses and Children?

On January 12, 2020, changes to the Post-911 GI Bill will allow military members to transfer part of the Montgomery G.I. Bill to their spouse or children for up to 15 years after separating from the service. 

Benefits can be used for up to 15 years after separation for members discharged prior to 1/1/13; there is no time limit for members discharged after that date. Dependents can take advantage of the benefit until the age of 26. 

The changes allow service members to transfer benefits while serving on active duty. Meant as a retention incentive, the eligibility provisions require members to serve at between at least six years and no more than 16 years and be willing to re-enlist for four additional years. 

The changes will allow veterans to transfer all or any unused portion of 36 months of their GI Bill to eligible dependents. To be eligible, dependents must be registered in the Defense Eligibility Enrollment Reporting System (DEERS) and be 18 years old when the transfer takes place. The request for transfer must be submitted while service members are still on active duty. 

Other Financial Assistance Options for Veterans 

For service members who don’t meet eligibility requirements, each branch of the armed forces has related "aid" or "relief" societies, which are non-profit organizations dedicated to providing assistance to military members and their dependents. Quite often, these agencies offer college scholarships, grants, or interest-free loans for dependent college education.

Each of the service-related societies has its own unique programs, eligibility requirements, program parameters, scholarship application forms, and decision processes.

The Air Force Aid Society Education Grant Program

The General Henry H. Arnold Education Grant program is the centerpiece of the Air Force Aid Society’s education support program. It awards competitive, need-based education grants to eligible Air Force dependents.

The application process serves as the platform to access other important AFAS scholarships. Since launching in 1988, nearly $167 million in Arnold Education Grants have been awarded to 109,499 hopeful scholars.

The Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society Education Assistance Program

The Society’s Education Assistance Program offers interest-free loans and grants for undergraduate or post-secondary education at an accredited two- or four-year educational institution in the United States. This financial assistance is available for children of active duty, retired or deceased sailors and marines, and for spouses of active duty and retired sailors and marines.

The Coast Guard Foundation Scholarships

The Coast Guard Foundation offers scholarship programs for enlisted Coast Guard members, children of enlisted coast guard members, children of fallen coast guard heroes, spouses of enlisted coast guard members, Coast Guard reserve families, and qualified active-duty Coast Guard civil service employees or their immediate families.

The Army Emergency Relief Scholarships

Spouses and children of soldiers, who are on active duty, retired, or active on Title 10 orders for the entire academic year, are eligible to apply for their corresponding scholarship programs: the Spouse Education Assistance Program and the MG James Ursano Scholarship Program for dependent children. Both scholarships provide financial assistance for students who are pursuing their first undergraduate degree.

Scholarship applications are available on the Army Emergency Relief website and are accepted January 1 through April 1 for the following academic year unless the deadline falls on a weekend, in which case the due date will be the following Monday.

The Army Emergency Relief (AER) Scholarship program was established in 1976 as a secondary mission when the Army Relief Society disbanded. The Scholarship program provides funding for undergraduate college expenses to Army Spouses and children.