The number of spouses of junior personnel who are using the Defense Department’s spouse tuition assistance program declined by about 45 percent between 2011 and 2017, according to a new report by government auditors.
About 7 percent of eligible spouses used the My Career Advancement Accounts in 2017, according to the report from auditors in the Government Accountability Office. The program, commonly referred to as MyCAA, provides up to $4,000 in tuition assistance for education or training for spouses of service members in the paygrades of E1 to E5, W1 to W2, and O1 to O2.
MyCAA funds can be used only for the pursuit of certificates, licenses, or associate degrees in a portable career field ― a high-growth and high-demand field that is most likely to have job openings near military installations. A recent Rand report found that the program may be contributing to higher retention rates, as well as helping the spouses’ job prospects and earnings.
Auditors said the number of military spouses receiving tuition assistance through MyCAA declined from 38,000 in fiscal 2011 to about 21,000 in fiscal 2017.
That 21,000 represented about 7 percent of the 302,000 eligible spouses using the program, which was similar to the rates for fiscal years 2014 through 2016, auditors stated.
In 2011 about 10 percent of eligible spouses were using the program.
“While we are not particularly surprised by a decline in utilization of the program, the rate decrease from 2011 to 2017 is alarming,” said Jennifer Davis, government relations deputy director for the National Military Family Association. "Since we know, based on DoD’s own data, that over 30 percent of employed military spouses are in fields requiring a license or certification which are covered by MyCAA, and military families [make permanent change of station moves] every two to three years on average, a 40-plus percent drop in program utilization is significant.
“This clearly shows that the program is not fulfilling the intent and need of these spouses. We urge DoD and Congress to look at ways to tweak the program in an effort to maximize its impact on military spouse education and employment.”