ALEXANDRIA, Va. (Army News Service, Jan. 6, 2014) -- Army Emergency Relief has opened its scholarship application period for the 2014-15 school year.
Applications from spouses and dependent children of Soldiers will be accepted from now until May 1, officials said.
This year, scholarships will be awarded based solely on financial need, said Tammy LaCroix, manager for Army Emergency Relief, or AER's scholarship programs.
In previous years, some scholarships were awarded based on scholastic achievement and leadership, LaCroix said. For instance, if students could demonstrate leadership -- such as serving as class president, leading a Scout troop or serving in an ROTC leadership position -- that in itself was worth a $500 scholarship. If their grade point average was above a 3.5 GPA, that could be worth another $500.
Those types of $500 scholarships have been eliminated however, so that larger awards to needy family members can be granted.
"What we're trying to accomplish is help the neediest of our Soldiers," LaCroix said.
Last year AER awarded 4,629 scholarships, totaling more than $10 million to spouses and children of Soldiers. That included scholarships to 1,148 spouses and awards to 3,481 children.
Those scholarships are helping send students this year to about 1,400 schools, ranging from Harvard to Alabama State to American Military University. Some of the students are attending university classes online and a few are going to vocational or cosmetology schools, LaCroix said.
About 9,000 applications were received last year online, LaCroix said, adding that the number kept her and another staff member quite busy.
"Last year was our first year using a new online application process," LaCroix said. "By upgrading the scholarship application software, we were able to streamline the entire process and more efficiently serve our applicants."
"Applicants are able to create their own profile, submit their documentation online, and check their status," added LaCroix. "This proved to be a huge time saver for both the applicants and the scholarship staff."
The most common reason for applicants to be turned down was incomplete packets, LaCroix said. Application packets should include school transcripts, the Student Aid Report from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as FAFSA, and the Soldier's Leave and Earnings Statement.
More information on the application process and necessary documentation is available on the AER website at www.aerhq.org. The entire application package must be submitted by May 1, LaCroix said.
Only spouses and dependent children of active-duty Soldiers are eligible for the scholarships, LaCroix said, but added this includes dependents of activated Army Reserve and National Guard troops, as long as they will remain on active-duty for the 2014-15 school year.
Army Emergency Relief is a private non-profit organization dedicated to providing financial assistance to Soldiers, active and retired, and their families. Since its incorporation in 1942, AER has provided more than $1.5 billion to more than 3.5 million Soldiers, families and retirees.