Tuition aid for military wives returns

FORT BRAGG Money problems forced the United States Department of Defense to eliminate the program in February, but it's set to resume in October.

It's called the My Career Advancement Account Program or MyCAA.

On Wednesday, Senator Kay Hagan sent a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates saying that while she's glad the program is coming back, she's disappointed that benefits have been cut.

Military spouses like Yamileth Johnson say the MyCAA program is perfect for her. She's a student at Fayetteville State University and her husband is a soldier at Fort Bragg.

"Yeah, I think it's great because it reduces the stress on the family," she said. "Especially the ones who want to get back and get a higher education."

But under the revived program, the $6,000 cap has been cut to $4,000. In addition, the new program is only available to spouses of junior enlisted soldiers and officers.

"Well, I think one of the concerns is right now is it's limited to an associate's degree or a certificate of licensure, and so many of the curriculums that our people in the service want to go after is a four-year degree," Sen. Hagan said. "And I see no reason why this funding can't go towards an undergraduate bachelor's degree or even a master's degree."

One of the problems with bringing back the program the way it was is money. Senator Hagan's office estimates the Defense Department would have spent $1 billion in the upcoming fiscal year to fund it. The new program will only cost a quarter of that.

Despite the hefty price tag of the original program, Senator Hagan believes it's worth it.

"This is to help provide those spouses with the educational background and tools that they need to get jobs," she said. "So I think family readiness is just as important as just about any other item within the military budget. And I think that the Department of Defense needs to recognize that and to give this considerable weight."

The new MyCAA program starts accepting applications in October. In the meantime, Senator Hagan says she'll keep fighting to increase its benefits.

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