Rand: Scholarship Program Boosts Spouse Employment

Rand: Scholarship Program Boosts Spouse Employment

Military spouses attend a job fair.
Photo by: Air National Guard/Master Sgt. Arthur Wright

Military spouses who used the Defense Department’s My Career Advancement Account Scholarship Program had higher employment rates, according to a recent report from the Rand Corp.

“The MyCAA Scholarship is supporting military families with a higher-than average commitment to military life, and its users go on to have higher-than-average rates of employment several years after program participation,” the report found. “Users had higher rates of employment than nonusers throughout our observation period.”

The My Career Advancement Account Scholarship provides up to $4,000 in tuition or fee assistance in portable career fields to spouses whose active-duty service member is in pay grades E-1 to E-6, W-1 to W-2 and O-1 to O-3.

There are over 430,000 Army spouses, according to an Army news release. Spouses of enlisted soldiers made up the greatest share of scholarship users, and spouses who earned money in 2018 made an average of just over $27,700, according to the report.

The Rand report analyzed the employment and earnings of scholarship users who enrolled between October 2010 and December 2011 with updates from 2018 and 2019 to understand how the scholarship affected employment and income.

Active-duty military spouses face unique employment challenges given the rhythm of military life. In an already competitive job market, military spouses often balance their professional careers with child care, frequent moves and lowered wages following moves.

"My spouse[’s] required training and mobilizations take him away frequently [and] leaves me as the sole caretaker for our family,” Maria Allo, an Army spouse, said in a February DoD news release. “The uncertainty around when my spouse might get mobilized or sent for training makes it hard for me to commit to big projects or career development milestones." 

Spouse employment efforts are a key part of the Army’s recent quality of life improvements. In addition to streamlining reimbursement for licenses and certifications during permanent change-of-station moves, the Army has requested $1.5 billion to improve barracks and is investing in new child development centers.

Between 2012 and 2018, spouse employment jumped from just over one-half to just over two-thirds. Compared to their peers who didn’t use the scholarship program, Rand found recipients were more likely to be employed as of 2018, according to the report.

“In 2018, spouses who used MyCAA funds had employment rates 10 percentage points higher than before they received the scholarship and six to eight percentage points higher than similar nonusers up to seven years after using the scholarship,” the report found.

The My Career Advancement Account Scholarship is making a difference for the spouses of younger active-duty service members.

“MyCAA Scholarship usage is associated with increased personnel readiness … as well as increased attachment to military service,” the report found. “MyCAA supports the readiness of the U.S. armed forces and is an investment in those military families with higher than-average attachment to military life, providing funds with which military spouses materially increase their families’ financial stability.”

Read the full report here.