AER awards $8.8 million in scholarships to Army families
June 13, 2014
By David Vergun
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, June 13, 2014) -- This year, Army Emergency Relief awarded 2,744 scholarships to children of active duty and retired Soldiers, and 895 scholarships to spouses.
The total amount awarded for the 2014 to 2015 school year came to $8.8 million, said Tammy LaCroix, program manager for AER's Scholarship Department.
The amount each person receives is unique to the student, based on his or her needs, she said. AER uses a formula that calculates the average cost of attendance, obtained from the college board, along with information from their Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA form.
While LaCroix said she's pleased that deserving students received financial help, referred to as the Maj. Gen. James Ursano Scholarship Program for children up to age 23, and the Spouse Education Assistance Program for spouses, she said "more scholarships could possibly have been awarded."
Every year, about half of the applicants don't finish the application process and, "that's really regrettable because of those who finish, between 80 and 90 percent get a scholarship," she said.
The main reason applications are not completed is because the required documents are not included, despite them being listed on the AER website. And, she added, there's plenty of time to obtain the documents because the application period lasts from Jan. 1 to May 1, each year.
Getting all the documentation isn't that hard, she said, since essays and letters of recommendation are not even required. The only things students need to submit are transcripts and the FAFSA form. Children or spouses of active duty Soldiers also need to provide their leave and earnings statement.
Also, those documents don't even need to be mailed as they can be scanned and uploaded to the AER website. She added that children or spouses of deceased Soldiers or retirees don't even need to send in the FAFSA, but they do need to send in a casualty report.
Year after year this happens, she said. Applicants "just kind of start and never finish" the process "and they call us after May 1, and beg for forgiveness and try to send us things after the deadline, which we can't do."
Now for the good news.
Those who do supply all the documents and get accepted are really happy, LaCroix said.
Just this week, she received thank you emails and letters from students who've received their scholarship awards. LaCroix provided a sample of the responses, addressed to the AER Scholarship Committee:
• "Thank you for awarding me the $3,700 scholarship towards my college expenses. My first year of college has been successful. You have helped make my dreams possible." ~ Jessica
• "I am very appreciative of all the help you have given me to continue with my education. Without it, I could not continue with my education to make myself a better person and a better citizen. Thank all of you for all the help and support you have given me." ~ Timothy
• "I just wanted to say thank you so much for awarding me the AER scholarship of $2,700 this year! I am so grateful to be receiving this money for my education. I am attending Oral Roberts University for my undergraduate studies. Then I plan on transferring to the University of Oklahoma to pursue a Pharm D. and to become a licensed pharmacist. This scholarship will take the financial burden off my shoulders and will allow me to focus on my studies. I can't say 'thank you' enough! AER is changing lives!" ~ Caitlin
One interesting fact LaCroix pointed out is that this year, 59 percent of the recipients of the Maj. Gen. James Ursano Scholarship Program are children of retired Soldiers, while 87 percent of the recipients of the Spouse Education Assistance Program are spouses of active duty Soldiers.
Although the application process doesn't start until the first day of next year, LaCroix said it's never too early to start thinking about it and marking that date on the calendar.
Scholarships are good for undergraduate, vocational and technical education, as long as they're accredited by the Department of Education.
Anyone interested in more information can visit www.aerhq.org. However, the application processing function on that site has been turned off until Jan. 1.
Also, more thank you messages and other comments and photos can be seen on AER's Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/AERHQ?ref=hl.
(For more ARNEWS stories, visit http://www.army.mil/ARNEWS, or Facebook at www.facebook.com/ArmyNewsService)