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Tuition assistance to stay the course in fiscal '14

Sep. 28, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
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When sequestration cuts hit the military this year, all services but the Navy cut their tuition assistance programs. Amid service member outrage, Congress quickly compelled them all to reinstate it.

As fiscal 2014 begins Tuesday, all of the services appear committed to continuing their programs. But some, like the Air Force, are doing so with tougher rules in place that add more accountability for how funds are spent.

Will sailors also have new policies to contend with? Personnel officials say no. The Navy plans to keep funding 100 percent of TA for sailors hoping to attend courses and pursue a degree. This benefit will be offered without any additional rules or restrictions.

With arguably the toughest rules already in place of all of the services, Navy officials say there was no need to change course. That includes no move to the old rule that would have forced sailors to pay for a quarter of their studies — a possibility that’s now off the table, officials said.

“Our goal is to balance the educational aims of our sailors with maintaining mission readiness during this fiscally challenging time,” said Lt. Cmdr. Chris Servello, spokesman for the chief of naval personnel.

Staying the course

In light of all of the budget cuts, some services saw TA as a logical place to cut back. But Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert has pledged his commitment to TA, referring to it as a “people program,” and thereby exempt from the sequestration ax.

The Navy was considering bringing back an old TA rule that would ask sailors to pony up 25 percent of the course cost. That possibility is now off the table.

Sailors can still apply for $250 per credit hour for up to 16 credits per year — a maximum annual benefit of $4,000.

Officials want sailors to help preserve funding by only using TA money when absolutely necessary, Servello said.

Before enrolling, obtain your Joint Service Transcript by visiting www.navycollege.navy.mil. You may have college credits and not even know it. Sailors can also save TA bucks by taking college-level equivalency tests through the Navy College Office or at other military service education centers at no cost.

If you’re underway, you could earn credits through the Navy College Program for Afloat College Education. In addition, distance education classes can be taken while underway, usually on CD-ROM.

Despite budget cuts, the Navy is funding about $86 million for TA in fiscal 2014, roughly the same amount the service spent this year.

Most sailors are eligible for TA, but there are restrictions. Neither enlisted members nor officers can use TA during the first year at their initial permanent duty stations.

You must also have passed your most recent advancement exam and your latest physical fitness assessment, have no record of nonjudicial punishment in the past six months, and be recommended for promotion or advancement. Also, before starting classes, you must have a degree plan on file with the Navy College Office or the Virtual Education Center.

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