Guidance for military dependents moving Stateside for college

Photo credit: Stuttgart high School Yearbook Club
Stuttgart high School Seniors, Annelise Meyer, Danica Denney, and Frances Farley pose in their cap and gowns preparing for graduation photos during their last month of high school before moving off to college. Photo credit: Stuttgart high School Yearbook Club

By Isabella Weibel
Special to The Citizen

Editor’s Note: Isabella Weibel is a Stuttgart High School senior and career practicum intern for the U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart Public Affairs Office. 

When senior year finally arrives, most every student is eager to move back to the U.S. and attend the college of their dreams. Being a military dependent makes the move to college quite different from that of a normal American high school student. Especially, if they live overseas. Even though getting settled into college may be difficult, military dependents receive many benefits to make the trip easier. In addition, there are also travel benefits for qualified students.

When traveling back overseas to visit family:
In order to qualify for dependent student travel benefits, the student must:

  • meet the qualification to be a regular military dependent (under 23 if a full-time college student).
  • be command sponsored for the overseas location at which his or her sponsor and family are living
  • be a full-time student at an accredited school (the same requirements to remain a dependent beyond age This may be a high school, college or university, or qualifying vocational school. The benefit remains for 30 days after leaving school for any reason.

Students are authorized two one-way tickets per year. The government accepts responsibility for providing transportation from the OCONUS, meaning outside continental U.S., location to get to college, then from college back to the OCONUS location at the end of the year. However, the regulations do not specify that the travel has to be used in that way, allowing families to use the travel allowance in the way that is the most beneficial to their situation.

(If this seems confusing, think of it this way: the college student’s home is with their family. The government is providing transportation to and from their place of education.)

Fellow Stuttgart military families who have used the dependent student travel program advised that the two one-way tickets must be used in opposite directions. Many families choose to use this benefit over the Christmas holiday when tickets can be more expensive, then they choose to pay for summer travel out-of-pocket.
The benefit is based on a fiscal year, so families can strategize the best way to use the benefit during the students first or last year of school, or during the family’s first or last year stationed OCONUS.

“Since my family will still be living in Germany, I am planning on returning to visit using these benefits,” said Stuttgart High School Senior Claire Bushong. “I am attending the University of Maryland. I am flying my household goods back to the States before I arrive so I will have an easy settlement into my new college,” said Bushong.
How To Use The Program

  1. Travel under the dependent student program is handled just like any other government-funded travel.
  2. The service member asks their personnel office to cut travel orders for their dependent child.
  3. With the travel orders, the service member then asks their travel office to make the arrangements.
  4. Depending on the specific details, the travel may be direct billed to the government or the service member may pay out-of-pocket and file a travel claim.

Moving to the U.S for college

  1. Reimbursement for dependent lodging that is necessary due to an interruption in travel caused by extraordinary situations (e.g., mandatory layovers, unscheduled stops, physical incapacity, and similar circumstances) is authorized.
  2. Reimbursement is determined using the per diem lodging ceiling applicable to the location of the circumstance.
  3. If another entity (e.g., an airline) pays for the overnight lodging expense, no additional reimbursement is authorized (except for lodging expenses above that paid by the airline and within the per diem lodging ceiling for the expense location).
  4. Lodging tax on the authorized payment is payable in a CONUS and non-foreign OCONUS location.

Travel Period Carry Over

  1. Authorization for a portion of a round trip not taken during a fiscal year ordinarily does not carry over to a subsequent fiscal year.
  2. A Service designated official may extend the fiscal year travel period for not more than 30 calendar days because of an unusual/emergency circumstance (e.g., an early or late holiday recess or school closing).

Baggage Storage
During the student’s annual trip between college and the family’s permanent duty station, or during a different period in the same fiscal year selected by the service member, a service member may store the student’s dorm items and unaccompanied baggage (up to 350 lbs.) in the school vicinity in lieu of transporting the goods. The branch of service concerned may pay, or a service member may be reimbursed for, the storage cost not to exceed the cost of round trip unaccompanied baggage transportation.

“I am attending college using some student loans provided by the government,” said Jordan Thigpen, Stuttgart High School senior. “I am taking time in Europe to travel over the summer so my plans for moving back to the States have not been decided yet, due to the fact I am not leaving until the fall.”

Resource: Defense Travel Management Office: Special Circumstances Travel: