Military College Benefits for Dependents

Jun 04, 2018

This article highlights five U.S. organizations that provide higher education assistance benefits to military dependents. Readers will find information pertaining to legislated benefits available to dependents, tuition reduction, and scholarships.

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Military families encounter many financial and social obstacles that can make it difficult for children and spouses to get a quality education. Below are several resources for financial benefits offered to military dependents seeking higher education.

Department of Veterans Affairs

The VA offers several education assistance programs, most of which cater to active service members, veterans, and survivors.

Children and surviving spouses of service members who died in the line of duty after September 11, 2001 may be eligible for the Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship. Those who qualify are entitled to full tuition and fees, a monthly housing allowance, and a stipend for books and supplies for 36 months.

Service members also have the option of transferring all or part of their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to their spouse and/or children. The GI Bill covers up to 36 months of benefits, including tuition & fees, a monthly housing allowance, and an annual books and supplies stipend. To qualify, the service member must have accrued six years of service, while committing to serve for another four.

State Legislatures

Effective July 1, 2009, public higher education institutions in each state must offer in-state tuition to active duty military service members and their families living in that state. This applies to those whose residence or permanent duty station is in a state that receives assistance under the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA).

Individual states have launched specific aid programs for military spouses and children. The National Conference of State Legislatures compiled a list of these benefit programs by state, which was last updated in 2010. More recent legislation can be found by searching the Military and Veterans Affairs State Bill Tracking Database.

The Defense Commissary Agency & Fisher House Foundation

The Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) is a key figure in the lives of military families living on base. Striving to provide quality of life offerings to service members and families, DeCA created the Scholarships for Military Children program.

In partnership with the Fisher House Foundation, this program seeks to award at least one $2,000 scholarship for every eligible commissary location. Dependent, unmarried children under 23 who are enrolled or planning to enroll in a full-time undergraduate program may apply.


Dedicated to providing educational assistance and pathways to meaningful employment, ThanksUSA is a non-profit organization that provides need-based scholarships to spouses and dependent children of military personnel. Every year, this organization awards 300 non-renewable scholarships, valued at approximately $3,000 each. To qualify, applicants must be current high school seniors or enrolled in an undergraduate program at an accredited college, university, vocational or technical school.

ThanksUSA also provides information on scholarship programs for spouses and dependents from outside or affiliated organizations.


AMVETS (American Veterans) is a Congressionally-chartered veterans service organization, with over 250,000 members, that offers six scholarships each year to high school seniors who are children of veterans and active/reserve military. For those demonstrating financial need who meet the eligibility criteria, AMVETS awards a total of $4,000 disbursed in $1,000 payments over four years.

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