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Program offers spouses educational assistance

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- Shannon Jones, spouse of Staff Sgt. Nickolas Jones, 55th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, studies at the Thomas S. Power Library here March 21. Mrs. Jones is studying nursing at Metropolitan Community college. She said the Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts program enabled her to pursue her educational goals. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. James M. Hodgman (Released)

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- Shannon Jones, spouse of Staff Sgt. Nickolas Jones, 55th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, studies at the Thomas S. Power Library here March 21. Mrs. Jones is studying nursing at Metropolitan Community college. She said the Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts program enabled her to pursue her educational goals. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. James M. Hodgman)

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- Shannon Jones, spouse of Staff Sgt. Nickolas Jones, 55th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, searches for a book at the Thomas S. Power Library here March 21. Mrs. Jones is studying nursing at Metropolitan Community college. She said the Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts program enabled her to pursue her educational goals. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. James M. Hodgman (Released)

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- Shannon Jones, spouse of Staff Sgt. Nickolas Jones, 55th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, searches for a book at the Thomas S. Power Library here March 21. Mrs. Jones is studying nursing at Metropolitan Community college. She said the Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts program enabled her to pursue her educational goals. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. James M. Hodgman)

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- For military spouses seeking financial assistance to pay for college expenses, help is available.

The Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts program, commonly referred to as MyCAA, was reinstated in October 2010 and offers qualifying spouses up to $4,000 in grants to complete an associate's degree, license or certification.

The program was halted in February 2010 due to overwhelming demand that put a financial strain on the budget. At the time, more than 130,000 people were using MyCAA funds to pay for their education.

According to Maj. Monica Matoush, a public affairs officer for the Department of Defense, the program was so popular new enrollments averaged 10,000 per month.

She said the temporary halt was needed so senior leaders could review the program. During the assessment period, no new accounts were created.

However, today military spouses can once again use MyCAA to reach their educational goals: something one spouse here greatly appreciates.

The MyCAA program is wonderful, said Tiffany Rodriguez-Long, spouse of Staff Sgt. James Long of the 55th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.

Mrs. Long is a full-time student at Metropolitan Community College and a mother of two. She started using MyCAA funds to pay for college in the spring of 2009 and said she's thankful the DOD offers educational assistance to military spouses.

Most of the time, she feels like military spouses are not a primary target of DOD programs, she said.

"We're kind of in the background," she added.

But with MyCAA, the DOD is helping spouses get an education so they can be productive no matter how many times they move, Mrs. Long said.

Mrs. Long will graduate from MCC in May with an associate's degree in pre-biology and plans on attending Creighton University in the fall.

Another member of Team Offutt has enjoyed the benefits of the MyCAA program.

Shannon Jones, spouse of Staff Sgt. Nickolas Jones, 55th AMXS, has been using MyCAA funds to pay for courses at MCC for the past two years where she's studying to become a nurse.

She said she's happy that the DOD offers the program to spouses.

"I love it," she said. "Without it, I wouldn't have been able to go to school or I would've had to take out a substantial loan."

It's amazing because the program is really supportive and enables spouses to contribute to their households and take some of the load off their military counterparts, she added.

With the funds she's received through MyCAA, Mrs. Jones, also a mother of two, said she was able to pay for college expenses and daycare as well.

"I hope the DOD keeps (MyCAA)," she said. "It helps us financially to get our degrees and shows the military and government as a whole really cares about us."

Mrs. Long and Jones are two of the more than 37,000 people who are currently using the MyCAA program.

Lewis Valentine, chief of the 55th Force Support Squadron's education and training section, encourages all spouses who qualify for MyCAA to take advantage of it.

"Servicemembers have the tuition assistance program and the GI Bill, but there wasn't a structured program for spouses prior to the MyCAA program," Mr. Valentine said.

For those who qualify, MyCAA is a tremendous benefit, he added. It provides an excellent resource for spouses to pursue some of their academic goals.

To qualify for MyCAA, spouses must be married to an enlisted servicemember no higher than the rank of E-5, a warrant officer between the ranks of W-1 and W-2 or commissioned officers no higher than the O-2 rank.

The program offers spouses up to $2,000 a year to pay for tuition costs. However, MyCAA won't cover all college expenses. The program doesn't cover expenses for books, non-academic credit, ungraded courses or college level entrance examinations.

For more information about the program or to apply, visit www.militaryonesource.com or call 1-800-342-9647.