Education is a special area of focus for the Department of Defense (DOD).
Yet, education assistance is geared not only towards active service members, but also towards the spouses of these brave people.
As part of the Spouse Education and Career Opportunities (SECO) program, the DoD has established the MyCAA (Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts) program. In this article, we give a brief overview of the MyCAA program, discussing what it is, how it works, and why it’s beneficial. Then, we discuss some of the drawbacks of this program, ending with our thoughts on its future.
What is the MyCAA Program?
The MyCAA program provides up to $4000 to military spouses over the course of 2 years. This financial assistance is meant for spouses who are continuing their education and need money in order to finish a license, certification, or Associate’s degree.
In addition to this financial assistance, the MyCAA program also offers employment readiness counseling. This helps spouses look for other opportunities for financial assistance. In addition, this counseling can help spouses locate resources that could help them with childcare responsibilities, book and computer costs, and the costs of other supplies.
Furthermore, the MyCAA program makes job referrals to communities of military-friendly employers. This service is geared only towards spouses that have completed their education program using DoD funding.
All spouses of active duty service members are eligible for these counseling services. However, only spouses married to active duty service members of a specific pay grade are eligible for the financial assistance and continuing education program.
The money that is offered by MyCAA is considered a scholarship, so spouses do not have to pay it back.
The Benefits Of The MyCAA Program
The main benefit of the MyCAA program is that it encourages spouses of active service members to continue educating and supporting themselves. This is critical if our society is to continue evolving and growing. While military service is not ideal, the spouses should not have to suffer on an educational level.
Often, when your partner enters active service, it can be difficult to continue living your life, and many spouses become apathetic, even depressed, when they are suddenly left alone for a period of time. Consequently, the MyCAA program exists to incentivize these spouses to continue pursuing a career or job that requires more formal education.
Many spouses don’t have the funds to pursue these education programs. Thus, even a seemingly small cost can discourage them from applying for or taking courses. Yet, with the MyCAA program, spouses can rely on the DoD to fund part of their studies. This could lead to a complete change in life plans, as a spouse might uncover some new interest or skill that had been previously been dormant.
What’s also great about the MyCAA program is that it counsels spouses and helps connect them with employers. This represents a very comprehensive service, as the MyCAA is almost like an employment agency or a University counseling service. Thus, you can use the MyCAA program not only to fund your education but also to help yourself find work that is consistent with your education.
The Drawbacks Of The MyCAA Program
One of the main drawbacks of the MyCAA program is that the financial assistance is only available to spouses of active members in a certain pay grade. This excludes spouses who make a certain amount of money. Yet, many spouses have extra money saved for childcare purposes, and cannot tap into these savings for educational investments. These spouses suffer from such limiting criteria.
Furthermore, the MyCAA program does not pay for books, supplies, computers, and other fees that many students experience when enrolling in courses. These costs are necessary when pursuing a degree and can become a financial burden.
Additionally, the MyCAA program cannot be applied to graduate education, but instead only undergraduate work or licenses and certifications that are not at a graduate level. Also, if you participate in the MyCAA program, you are required to complete the relevant coursework. If you don’t complete the courses, your financial assistance could be halted.
While all of these limitations are understandable given the scope of this program, they still prevent spouses from maximizing the educational opportunities available to them.
Life is full of unpredictable situations, and many spouses may find that they need to stop taking a certain course for a period of time before resuming. Yet, if this spouse wanted to start a different course in this period, they would not be funded under the current MyCAA policies since they didn’t finish the first course.
Selecting A School For MyCAA Funding
Another big drawback of the MyCAA program is that expedited funding is only eligible for approved schools. If you are seeking funding for a school that is not approved, the process can sometimes take up to 60 days, or the school might not even be approved.
Furthermore, only certain fields and occupations are supported, and there is a list of the approved ones on this webpage. While spouses can appeal to have a different career or occupation funded, this appeal process can be lengthy.
In this sense, spouses who want to get funding for a school or subject that is not immediately approved will have to jump through some more hoops. This can be overwhelming considering how many other responsibilities spouses of active military members must handle.
The Future Of The MyCAA Program
While the MyCAA program is certainly effective in incentivizing spouses of active military members to further their education, the drawbacks highlighted above indicate that the program could be improved.
In particular, we think the future MyCAA program will be more comprehensive and will fund any program or subject that a spouse wants to pursue.
In addition, we think the future MyCAA program will offer a higher monetary award than the current $4000. This would encourage spouses to not only finish their education but pursue higher degrees with greater specializations.
Lastly, we think the future MyCAA program will include a department for actual education. This could be conducted through an online interface, which is similar to how much of online education currently works.
This would make it even easier for spouses to access education and would prevent spouses from having to go through a lengthy appeals process if their school or desired subject is not supported.
Our Final Thoughts On The MyCAA Program
We think the MyCAA program is effective but has some limitations related to funding and accessibility.
Ultimately, these limitations are understandable given how many spouses are eligible for the benefits of this program. Not every spouse can have their educational dreams fully funded, as this would interfere with other parts of the program.
Yet, some of these limitations can actually be viewed as benefits. For example, even though the MyCAA program has a list of pre-approved schools that it’s willing to fund, spouses can still invite a school to apply for funding. Even though this might take up to two months, it still shows that the MyCAA program is somewhat flexible.
We think it’s great that the MyCAA program offers counseling services to any spouse of a service member, regardless of their partner’s pay grade or their chosen field of study. This shows that the MyCAA program is committed to education and wants to help every military spouse with their future career.
Eventually, we think the MyCAA program will be expanded to include an online education component. This could be conducted using video modules and online textbooks, significantly lowering the educational costs for each spouse.
The Future Of Military Education Programs
We think the MyCAA program is heading in the right direction and will continue to take care of spouses of military members in the future.
Considered more generally, we think there might not be a need for military education programs like MyCAA in the future. Eventually, we think violence will be eradicated along with borders and divisions. This will lead to an end to all conflict and war, which will render the military more or less obsolete.
Eventually, we think the MyCAA program might be transformed into a more general program to assist low-income families with furthering their education.
Yet, we live in an imperfect world dominated by conflict, stress, and violence. Until these are eradicated, our military members are more important than ever. Additionally, it’s more important than ever that we encourage people to join the military. This can be achieved by offering programs like MyCAA that ensure that the spouses of military members have proper educational support.
Even though spouses are only funded up to $4000, the MyCAA program helps spouses find other financial assistance opportunities as well as future employers.
Truly, this is a one-of-a-kind program that makes military membership all the more appealing. Service members no longer have to worry about the educational well-being of their spouses, but can instead focus on their workplace responsibilities.