FORT RUCKER, Ala. (December 20, 2012) -- Fort Rucker is home to numerous opportunities for Soldiers and their Families to earn educational scholarships and grants.With the cost of education ever increasing, students and potential students should try to explore every avenue to receive scholarships and grants, according to Mike Burden, Army Community Service accredited financial counselor."Student loan debt is on average $28,000 per student. There are people who get Pell Grants, scholarships and the like, and still have to get loans. Any amount of money will help Families, but students need to start planning now," he said.Fort Rucker has many opportunities for Families to receive scholarships, including the Maj. Gen. James Ursano Scholarship Program, Spouse Education Assistance Program and the Scholarships for Military Children Program.These three programs vary widely to help Family members from various backgrounds to qualify, but there are additional programs that dependents have access to at http://www.aerhq.org/dnn563/EducationalAssistance.aspx.Army Emergency Relief offers two scholarship programs, the Spouse Education Assistance Program and the Maj. Gen. James Ursano Scholarship Program. Both scholarships cover fees and books associated with the chosen program as well as tuition. The programs also cover Internet classes.Spouses can be enrolled full or part time, but children must be enrolled full time."Students need to apply every year to continue these scholarships; it is not a one-time deal. Children must be under the age of 23 during the school year, though," said Mimi Brooks, Army emergency relief officer at ACS.The programs cover retirees, active duty, Family members, survivors and National Guard or Reserve members, but special criteria must be met for National Guard and Reserve Soldiers.Applications will be available Jan. 1, but the packets for both programs don't have to be completed and returned until May 1 to give applicants plenty of time. With the economy being so unsteady, the scholarship program allows spouses a chance to stay in college, return to college or begin higher education, said Brooks."Furthering education helps [Family members] go into the career field where they can financially contribute to the Family, which is going to help with financial stress that is sometimes brought into the home. It will ultimately help the mission overall because the Soldier's stress level will go down without the added pressure of a financial strain at home," she said.There is not a designated number of scholarships that are awarded; whoever qualifies financially gets a scholarship.The school an applicant attends must be an institution accredited by the U.S. Department of Education; it can be a technical school, a community college or a university."The scholarships cannot be used for anything higher than an undergraduate degree and it must be the first degree or certificate that the recipient will get," said Brooks.The amount that each person gets is based solely on financial need, not rank or grade of the sponsor. For children, grades, grade point average and leadership also factor in on how much aid they will receive."These are great programs because we don't require any type of essay, which most scholarship programs do. All they have to do is complete their taxes, then use their forms to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid online, which takes about five days to get those results. Then they use those results to complete our application, which they can also do online," said Angie Pratt, AER assistant scholarship program manager.To be eligible for the Maj. Gen. James Ursano Scholarship Program, the student must be the child of a Soldier on active duty, remain unmarried during the entire academic year, maintain a GPA of 2.0 and have a high school diploma or a general education development diploma. Also, they must submit high school or college transcripts.For more information concerning the Maj. Gen. James Ursano Scholarship Program, visit http://www.aerhq.org/dnn563/EducationalAssistance/DependentChildren.aspx.To be eligible for the Spouse Education Assistance Program, the student must be the spouse of an active-duty Soldier or the widower of a Soldier who died on active duty, or in a retired status and maintain a 2.0 GPA. If the spouse attended college previously then they must submit those transcripts.For more information concerning the Spouse Education Assistance Program, visit http://www.aerhq.org/dnn563/EducationalAssistance/Spouses.aspx.The 2013 Scholarships for Military Children is also now open for students at commissaries around the world."Scholarship awards will be based on funds available, but the scholarship program awards at least $1,500 at each commissary," said Tammy Reed, defense commissary agency marketing and mass communications specialist.To be eligible for a commissary scholarship, the student must be a dependent, unmarried child, younger than 21 -- or 23, if enrolled as a full-time student at a college or university -- of a service member on active duty, Reservist, Guardsman, retiree or survivor of a military member who died while on active duty or survivor of a retiree."The applicant must also be planning to attend or already attending an accredited college or university, full time, in the fall of 2013 or be enrolled in a program of studies designed to transfer directly into a four-year program," she said.Unlike the AER scholarship program, Scholarships for Military Children do require an essay."Applicants must submit an essay on a topic chosen by Fisher House," she said, which is now available at http://www.militaryscholar.org.Applications must be turned in to a commissary by Feb. 22."The commissary scholarship program was created to recognize military Families' contributions to the readiness of U.S. armed forces and to celebrate the commissary's role in the military community," said Reed.Students with questions about the scholarship program application can visit http://www.commissaries.com and or http://www.militaryscholar.org.For more information about available scholarships, call 255-2341.