Is MyCAA Next on the Chopping Block?

studying-spouse

In the last week four out of five services – the Marine Corps, Army, Air Force and Coast Guard – have halted their servicemember tuition assistance programs thanks to sequestration. The Navy is the only service still offering the benefit to its members. But what about the spouses?

DoD is silent on the fate of MyCAA, the tuition assistance program offered to military spouses regardless of branch.

“… Because of the current fiscal situation, we are evaluating all programs across the department,” Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. Leslie Hull-Ryde told us. “At this time, I have no specific announcements to make related to MyCAA.”

Still experts on education program funding expect DoD to announce any day that they will close MyCAA.

“I would expect DoD to suspend MyCAA very soon,” Terry Howell, Military.com’s education benefits expert, told us. “Like (tuition assistance) the DoD is being very quiet about their next moves.”

If MyCAA is suspended the same way the servicemember tuition assistance programs have been, those who are currently enrolled in courses will not be impacted.But no one will be able to enroll in new classes unless the program is restored.

But whether or not it would come back may even be in question. DoD officials told me in 2012 that an expansion of the program was out of the question due to funding constraints. And now that we’re in a belt tightening era programs like MyCAA may be the first to go permanently.

“I think the longevity of the MyCAA program has long been in question, not just because of recent budget cuts, but because of the question of how effective this program is,” said Bianca Stzalkowski, founder of the Military Spouse Education Initiative. “I believe MyCAA was created as an incentive when we were expanding the Marine Corps and Army, and now that we have to downsize I believe it will go away.”

When first launched the scholarship, dubbed Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts or MyCAA, allowed spouses in families of all ranks to receive up to $6,000 in tuition. But the program was so wildly popular with over 130,000 spouses applying within a year of its 2009 opening, that it quickly outpaced its funding. Officials abruptly shuttered the service to new applicants in early 2010, pledging to review and reopen it in the future.

The program was restarted eight months later with drastic benefit cuts and a stiff rank cap barring spouses from most officer and senior enlisted families. The cap was met with a furious outcry from excluded spouses who felt their time in a service family had earned them the benefit.

But the revamping achieved its goal of cutting users. So drastic was the drop in enrollment that DoD asked the Senate to shrink their funding request for the program in fiscal 2102 from $190 million to mere $70 million.

Of that request only $66 million was spent in fiscal 2012. About 37,000 spouses used MyCAA last year, according to DoD.

Officials were not able to get us current MyCAA usage or funding statistics by deadline.

If MyCAA goes away altogether, however, all is not lost Stzalkowski says.

“My reaction to the elimination of the MyCAA would be that spouses can turn to alternative sources of funding for their education that will allow the spouse to choose their own degree path, such as a Pell Grant, scholarships through the Spouse Clubs, branch aid societies, and private organizations like the National Military Family Association and Thanks USA,” she said. “Programs like MyCAA that limit a spouse to an Associate’s degree do not positively impact a spouse’s ability to get the kind of job they desire. If it did, we wouldn’t have an approximate 26 percent unemployment rate among our military spouses. If the Department of Defense wants to create an education program it needs to be effective, not just a check in the box to say they are giving a benefit to spouses.”

If you’re in the market for degree funding or education help or ideas, make sure to check out Stzalkowski’s Military Spouse Education Initiative.

About the Author

Amy Bushatz
Amy is the editor in chief of Military.com’s spouse and family blog SpouseBuzz.com. A journalist by trade, Amy also covers spouse and family news for Military.com where she is the managing editor of spouse and family content. An Army wife and mother of two, Amy has been featured as a subject matter expert on CNN.com, NPR, Fox News, NBC, CBS, ABC and BBC as well as in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. Follow her on twitter @amybushatz.

24 Comments on "Is MyCAA Next on the Chopping Block?"

  1. Mycaa should have been the first thing to be cut!

  2. For the love of pete, if the soldier can't get it, why should the spouse?

  3. loose it. Agree with Bonn, if a soldier can't get TA why should a spouse get MYCAA. And why exactly is it the militaries problem that a younger/lower enlisted spouse get an education? The military has become a lifestyle of entitlement instead of a JOB

  4. sabrinacking | March 13, 2013 at 4:51 pm |

    It has been a concern for the military to get junior enlisted spouses in the workforce….because the Army doesn't pay junior enlisted personal well at all. This is why they qualify for foodstamps and WIC and HUD housing.
    As for MYCAA, it was always a crappy program geared at basic education and trade school level education anyhow…so who cares.

  5. An Aviators Wife | March 13, 2013 at 4:59 pm |

    I'm not sure how it used to be, but I'm enrolled in a class now, and my class is neither basic education or trade school-level. They actually have a lot of options. I figured it would be one of the first things chopped, so I'm surprised it's survived this long.

  6. I was one of the first military spouses to use MYCAA when it first started in 2009; I used it to complete my Masters of Computer Science….it was great…I used ALL $6000.00…!

  7. Instead of fretting about what is going to be cut, why aren't we looking at alternatives to get the same thing? Why aren't we petitioning to have lower interest rates for military members and spouses to take out student loans? Why aren't we trying to get a graduated payment program based on rank to AMU or a similar program? They haven't repealed the post 9/11 GI bill yet either, have they?

    its terrible that these programs are getting cut, but lets remember there are THOUSANDS of 18 year olds who figure out how to get into, and pay for college without tuition assistance.

  8. I agree with why was the active duty member cut before the spouses TA. I remember a long time ago when if was pretty much if the military wanted you to have a wife they would have issued you one. I am sorry if that statement offends anyone but the military has gotten to the point that the active duty gets less than the dependents.

  9. insufficient funding for programs surrounding active and former service members and they expect this to continue?
    If they want benefits then spouses need to see a recruiter……

  10. While Congress has no problem in cutting benefits to our service members and spouses, they are being courted by the Israeli lobbyists who are hard at work in Washington making sure there are no cuts to the Israeli military. Something is not right here…

  11. K Hendrickson | March 14, 2013 at 8:55 pm |
  12. H. E. Pearson Jr | March 15, 2013 at 1:51 pm |

    This has nothing to do with MyCCA, but when I signed up for direct deposit for my travel pay, I didn't know thatI would be forfeting $5.00 fo precessing (?). I used to get $9.73. Now, while still having to stand in line to sign for my direct deposit, I received $4.73 from the US Treasury. I havnt spoken with the billing dept, but I intend to.
    Also, I was just evaluated for a possible disability increase; and I told the examinating doctor, that when I received my last increase, my disabilities totalled 80%, but was told that I had a combined rating of 60%. That's a 20%, and any increase would undoubtedly have similar results. The damned government just can't keep from from screwing the veterans.

  13. I can't believe some of the post I just read. When I first found out about MyCAA I was so thankful that something like that was even offered to spouses. I completely agree that tuition assistance for active military should not be taken away from them but why should MyCAA be taken away from spouses? What makes one more important than the other. Both TA and MyCAA help you go to school by making it a little more affordable. Yeah MyCAA funding isn't enough to pay for all of your schooling but it is something. That something has given me the push to even enroll in school. Going to school is so expensive and getting that little bit of help from MyCAA has helped me tremendously. As a military spouse I can say that the military life isn't easy. I know it's hard for my husband but it's hard for me too. I gave up a lot to be with him and be there to support him in his decision to defend our country. I'm not asking for praise or anything of the sort, but back off the spouses. We might not be on the front lines, but we are still there supporting our husbands and spending our lives away from family and everything we know so that everyone can live in freedom.

  14. This should have been the first thing to go. All of these vocational and trade schools prey on spouses eligible for the program. They also prey on the service members. One school has a bogo program if you don’t qualify. Just get the service member to sign up using their TA or GI Bill and the spouse can go for free. Refer 3 people and keep the computer! Be a liaison and sign people up and get $500 a referral. No thanks. These spouses can apply for financial aid, scholarships, grants, and student loans to pay for school. You want the military to pay for your school? Go sign on the dotted line. Either way, I would rather like my TA and have money for training and unit readiness.

  15. I feel that if a military member doesn't get TA a spouse shouldn't either and have been annoyed that they have allowed MyCAA to continue for longer than TA.

    I used MyCAA when it first came out. It was good, but then restructured and as a spouse of an E6 I wasn't allowed to use it. I didn't complain. I was grateful for the time I was allowed to use it (I think I managed to get 4 course paid for before the restructure). I have to say, I did agree with some of the others who were annoyed that spouses of lower ranking members were allowed to use the funding. Things are tough and everyone needs to adapt to survive. I never qualify for any Financial Aid but have won over $8000 in scholarships and grants in my 2 years in school. I also work to pay for my schooling. I guess I have a different view of things than some and I don't believe the military owes me anything.

  16. For those saying a job always has to be stagnate and that associate’s degrees are not useful, an associate degree in nursing, i.e. a RN degree, is extremely useful in getting a starting salary of $55K a year. Not to mention the fact that I will be using that 2-yr degree as a jumping off point towards becoming a Nurse Practitioner (which is still extremely useful while PCSing) to make upwards of $110K a year. In doing so, I will become a citizen who pays 30% in taxes into a system which will in turn, pay my husband’s “high” salary. As far as TA being cut before MyCAA- that’s just another example of our inefficient legislators in Washington. As for me, I will simply pay for the education I receive as I can and as my family can afford it. Do I think “free cell phones” should be done away with or “free gas cards” be eliminated before military benefits are slashed to the bone? Hell yes I do. But that will not happen so instead of complain, I will write my congressmen and senators and voice my opinions while continuing in my path of self-preservation and personal responsibility. I suggest we all keep out dignity and do the same. Raising public awareness of abuses in power is one thing- constantly whining and crying over splilled milk is quite another. Thank you to all who serve and all who stand by those who serve.

  17. As a retired enlisted person, I have attempted to get permission from the services to use official service logos on laser engraved or scroll saw cuttings for sale. I was surprized that the serices have fees that they charge for licenses. What turns out to be unbelievable is the different amounts being charged for these depending on service. The USMC charged $25 per year, the Air Force does not charge, the Army charges $225.00 per year. I strongly believe that retiree craft hobbyists should not have to pay for use of the proper service logos, we paid more than that with our years of service. I do agree that big businesses that make and sell products do need licenses to put their items up for resale, but not hobbyists. Contact your representatives and complain that we are paying persons to grant the permission needed.

  18. I agree that the tuition assistance should not have been cut. However, as a spouse I feel as though spouses should have some assistance for tuition as well. And for everyone jumping the gun saying that service members can transfer their GI bill benefits….this is ONLY AFTER SIX YEARS of service!!! I'm in school now (Full time) at the age of 19 and my husband has only been in for a year and a half. This means I would have to wait over 4 years to receive any type of assistance! I'll have my bachelor's degree by then. How is that useful??? And since I have job now, fafsa is pretty much kicking me out of the pell grant. They count BAS AGAINST you as well. If I was getting food stamps instead, they would shower me with the pell grant. Or if I became a stay at home air force wife with 3 children and no job. If you do things the wrong way, like having children before a stable career and no job you get all kinds of help. If you do things the right way, like having job (30 hours a week for me) and go to school full time you get no help. Funny how things work.

  19. There is nothing wrong with waiting for six little years for your husband's GI Bill….Consider yourself lucky to get it at all. What you should worry about is the fact that your "husband" can make the choice to grant you his GI Bill benefits, all or some; however, he also has the power to TAKE IT BACK at any time. Hope you are aware of that. If you divorce, Bam, he is able to pull your end date, change it, then you get nothing.
    I am Air Force wife of 24 years, my husband transferred 75% of his benefits to me, I am now in my forties and a graduate school majoring in Public Administration, specializing in Government Studies. You appear to have some sense of entitlement, just a most 20-something girls do. Cry about your problems when you do your "time" as a military spouse. Some advice? Get a job, and wait until you've paid your own dues!!!

  20. I AM SO SICK AND TIRED OF THESE YOUNG MILITARY WIVES COMPLAINING ABOUT THEIR EDUCATION BENEFITS!!
    THIS SENSE OF ENTITLEMENT BLOWS MY MIND. AS AN AIR FORCE SPOUSE OF 24 YEARS, I CONSIDER MYSELF FORTUNATE THAT I WAS ABLE TO ACCESS ANY BENEFITS AT ALL (CAA). BUT I WAS ABLE TO ACHIEVE A "START" WITH MY AAS, I PAID FOR MY BAS OUT OF POCKET, I AM NOW A GRADUATE STUDENT IN PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION, SPECIALIZING IN GOVERNMENT STUDIES THANKS TO MY HUSBAND'S GIFT TO ME OF 75% OF HIS POST 9/11 BENEFITS. WE EARNED OUR BAS DEGREE'S TOGETHER, AND BOTH WORKED HARD, IN SCHOOL AND IN THE WORKPLACE. HE IS A CONTRACTED FIRE CHIEF NOW IN AFGHANISTAN. WE STAND AS A TEAM, NOT LOOKING FOR A HANDOUT. I AM PROUD OF MY HUSBAND, AND THANK DOD FOR WHAT I'VE BEEN ABLE TO ACCOMPLISH.
    THE DOD OR FEDERAL GOVERNMENT HAS BEEN GRACIOUS ENOUGH TO ALLOW SPOUSES TO BENEFIT FROM OUR HUSBAND'S OR WIVE'S SERVICE, WHY IS EVERYONE DEMANDING IT? IT IS INDEED THE ACTIVE MILITARY THAT SHOULD RETAIN THE EDUCATION BENEFITS THEY SERVE THEIR COUNTRY FOR, I AM UPSET THAT THEY MAY NO LONGER HAVE ACCESS TO IT.

  21. Meditec.com | June 11, 2014 at 6:58 am |

    For those who are interested in getting the MyCAA benefit, they should first seek advise from the right people on what exactly is the purpose of the MyCAA program.

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