A Critical Review of Barriers to United States Military Spouse Education and Employment

A Critical Review of Barriers to United States Military Spouse Education and Employment

Crystal Lewis (Northcentral University, USA)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 23
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3583-7.ch012
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Abstract

In the United States, there are over one million military spouses. Frequent geographical relocations, the psychological stress and anxiety associated with spousal deployments, and supporting their children as the only parent while their active duty spouse is away leave military spouses disproportionately accountable for all family obligations. Ultimately, these inequities create barriers for military spouses and their employment and educational pursuits. Despite similarities in lifestyle to active duty service members, military spouses are not categorized as an at-risk population and have not been studied in depth. This chapter utilized the source, survey, synthesize method to address the literature gap surrounding the barriers to military spouse education and employment. Findings from the existing literature were synthesized to present the key themes for studies that investigated the military culture, barriers to military spouses' pursuits of higher education, employment, and career advancement and earnings.
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Introduction

Currently, there are over 1 million military spouses in the United States and 93% of them are female (U.S) (Bradbard, Maury, & Armstrong, 2016; United States Department of Defense [USDoD], 2017). The Post-9/11 GI Bill allows U.S. service members to transfer their financial educational benefits to their spouses and children (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs [USDVA], 2016). Over 3 million military dependents, including military spouses, became eligible for higher education benefits under the transferability option of the Post 9/11 GI Bill (USDoD, 2017). Since the bill’s inception in 2009, spouses of active duty military members are becoming a force on campuses across the country, in online programs, and in satellite programs around the world (Gleiman & Swearengen, 2012). Each year, over 20% (and growing) of active duty service members transfer their Post-9/11 GI Bill educational benefits to their spouses and dependents (Gleiman & Swearengen, 2012; USDVA, 2019). Since the transferability option began, over 3 billion dollars have been transferred to military dependents to use for funding their higher education pursuits (Jowers, 2011). Due to the transferability of the Post-9/11 GI Bill educational benefits, military spouses now have more opportunities to pursue higher education programs.

Despite similarities in lifestyle to active duty service members, military spouses who enroll in higher education programs are not categorized as an at-risk population (Ott, Kelley, & Akroyd, 2018). The psychological stress and anxiety that are associated with spouse deployments and frequent geographical moves that accompany the military lifestyle also leave military spouses disproportionately accountable for all family obligations, especially during deployment cycles of their spouses (Redmond, Wilcox, Campbell, Kim, Finney, Barr, & Hassan, 2015; Ott et al., 2018). Military spouses reported having to assume the role of both parents while their spouses are away, maintain the household, provide care for the children, and make important family decisions by themselves (Redmond et al., 2015). Additionally, when active duty service members receive new military orders to Permanent Change of Station (PCS), the military spouse must relocate and leave their current job, educational program, and or support network.

Military spouses often struggle to complete their higher education programs or maintain gainful employment due to a variety of stressors that include but are not limited to frequent geographical relocations, changing support networks, and supporting their children as the only parent while their active duty spouse is away on a deployment or training exercise (Bonura & Lovald, 2015; Borah & Fina, 2017; Castaneda & Harrell, 2008; Cooney, De Angelis, & Wechsler Segal, 2010; Eubanks, 2013; Eversole, 2017; Ott et al., 2018). Balancing the outlined military-affiliated and family responsibilities could impact military spouse students’ ability to perform successfully in academic pursuits (Bonura & Lovald, 2015). The added stress of balancing the aforementioned factors could influence a student’s ability to succeed in higher education programs, and the inability to achieve balance may be a reason military spouse students leave higher education (Meadows et al., 2016). Simply put, the military spouse student population may have additional barriers to higher education program achievement than civilian students.

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