Survey: Military Spouse Scholarship Underused

More than half of potential users of a Defense Department military spouse scholarship don't know the program exists, a new report finds.

The study, conducted by the RAND Corporation and released early this month, examined answers related to the My Career Advancement Account (MyCAA) scholarship from about 13,000 spouses in a late 2012 active duty military spouse survey conducted by the Defense Department (DoD).

Of the respondents who had not used MyCAA in the year before the study, "about half were unaware of the program," said Laura Miller, one the study's researchers. "If you dialed down a little deeper you'd see that some of those are newer spouses, they had been married less years. ... It's probably like a lot of military spouse programs -- something that [the DoD] will need to just continuously work to make people aware of."

The MyCAA program pays for up to $4,000 in tuition and some fees for spouses seeking an associate's degree, occupational certificate or portable career field license for spouses of troops E1-E5, O1 and O2 and W1 and W2. The current version began in October 2010 after an earlier version -- which provided more funds and didn't discriminate based on rank -- was pulled because too many people were using it and costs to the Defense Department were higher than anticipated.

Among those eligible to use MyCAA at the time of the survey, 54 percent reported that they were unaware of the program. Forty-three percent of those who said they didn't know about the program had been married to a service member three years or less, and 64 percent of them lived off base.

The study also found confusion among military spouses over who is eligible for the program. About 63 percent of those who said they didn't use MyCAA because they didn't qualify were actually married to an E5 and eligible, the report says.

The report recommends that officials do more to make sure eligible spouses both know about the program and understand what it can do for them.

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