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Navy reopens TA funding for vocational programs

Oct. 10, 2012 - 04:00PM   |   Last Updated: Oct. 10, 2012 - 04:00PM  |  
MCSN Justin E. Yarborough/Navy // Navy education counselors at Navy College offices and online can help sailors seeking to use Navy tuition assistance to cover vocational learning. Here, a counselor outlines the Navy College program to a sailor during an afloat career information fair in 2010.
MCSN Justin E. Yarborough/Navy // Navy education counselors at Navy College offices and online can help sailors seeking to use Navy tuition assistance to cover vocational learning. Here, a counselor outlines the Navy College program to a sailor during an afloat career information fair in 2010. (Navy)
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GETTING THE RIGHT HELP

Websites and other resources to help you navigate the Navy’s rules on clock hour programs and tuition assistance:
• Navy Credentialing Opportunities Online, or Navy COOL.
• Navy College offices and counselors can be located online here.
• The Virtual Education Center is available at 877-838-1659 or DSN 492-4584 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern time, five days a week, except Christmas, New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving, and July 4. Email help is available through a link on the VEC’s Web page at, which lists toll-free numbers for many countries.
• The list of Veterans Affairs Department-approved clock-hour programs can be found online here. Click the "Click here to search for approved programs" link in the center of the screen, then click on the appropriate state to find local programs.

Sailors can once again use tuition assistance dollars for many civilian vocational programs now that the Navy's lifted a two-year ban on the practice.

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Sailors can once again use tuition assistance dollars for many civilian vocational programs now that the Navy's lifted a two-year ban on the practice.

The Navy in March 2010 stopped allowing sailors to use TA for vocational programs measured in so-called "clock hours," as opposed to more traditional semester or quarter-hour credits offered at colleges and universities.

Officials reasoned at the time that programs resulting in certifications instead of degrees were inconsistent with the Navy's degree-heavy off-duty education program and therefore should not qualify for the allowance.

They now say many vocational education programs would translate into better-qualified sailors.

"The Navy continuously reviews its training and education policies to ensure a balance between professional and personal development goals for sailors," said Dr. Jonathan Woods, a voluntary education specialist on the staff of the chief of naval personnel.

And upon further review, clock-hour programs are back in the game and eligible for Navy funding.

"Clock hours is one area where we found value rebalancing nondegree skill acquisition with academic goals, as these programs provide vocational education opportunities that often enhance sailors' skills in technical career fields on active duty and can benefit them when they eventually return to the private sector," Woods said.

Clock hours are used in programs that require a certain number of hours where the student must be observed by instructors. Often, these programs satisfy the minimum educational requirements for certifications or licenses set by a state or national accreditation organization. Examples could range from an electrician's license to the Federal Aviation Administration airframes and powerplant license for aircraft maintenance.

The new TA rules were announced Oct. 2 in a fleetwide message, http://www.public.navy.mil/bupers-npc/reference/messages/Documents/NAVADMINS/NAV2012/NAV12305.txt">NAVADMIN 305/12. Sailors can use TA funds for clock hours only if they meet all the same TA eligibility requirements for traditional semester and quarter-hour programs, according to the message. Many of these requirements are new, issued after the Navy first eliminated clock hours from the program.

For example, the Navy doesn't allow first-term sailors to use tuition assistance during their first year at their initial duty station. Sailors must also be recommended for advancement to be eligible. Sailors should check with their command for all the requirements, officials say, because any requests for funding must be approved first by their chain of command.

Additionally, before the Navy will authorize tuition assistance for any courses, sailors must have a degree plan on file with their local Navy College office.

If approved, sailors are issued an "electronic education voucher" to be given to the school to pay for the classes they take.

TA, by the numbers

Navy TA funds tuition and authorized fees up to 16 semester hours, 24 quarter hours or 240 clock hours per person each fiscal year, but there are limits.

The Navy caps payment of TA at $250 per semester hour, $166.67 per quarter hour and $16.67 per clock hour up to an annual maximum of $4,500 per sailor. There have been talks of having to reduce TA in the near future, as the Navy faces a budget crunch, though new figures have not been announced.

There are options for sailors who want to exceed TA caps.

"Navy approval also offers sailors the option to use the GI Bill top-up program to cover costs that exceed the TA cap for a given fiscal year," said Tom Smith, enlisted education coordinator for Navy Education and Training Command.

Completion rules for TA-funded clock-hour programs are the same as for other college programs. If you drop out or fail, you'll have to reimburse the Navy for the full cost of the course. In addition, the new rules only allow sailors to take one clock-hour vocational or technical program during their career.

The Navy will pay for costs tied to certifications related to clock-hour programs, but not with TA funds.

Since 2006, the Navy has operated a website detailing the wide rage of certifications it can pay for. The site is called Navy COOL, or — Navy Credentialing Opportunities Online — and it shows what civilian credentials match up with Navy ratings and many Navy enlisted classifications.

Upgrades to the https://www.cool.navy.mil">Navy COOL website went live Oct. 3, officials said, further linking Navy skills and credentials.

These qualifications would also translate to skills in the civilian sector, for exiting sailors. Examples include ratings such as culinary specialist and electrician's mate, as many jobs in those areas outside the fleet are tied to certified skill levels. Information systems technician — where outside employment can hinge on Microsoft and other certifications — is another example.

Aviation machinist's mates, aviation structural mechanics, aviation electrician's mates and aviation electronics technicians can get the Navy to pay for the coveted airframes and powerplant certification needed to work almost everywhere in civilian aviation, Smith said, and the list goes on.

Sailors interested in a particular program should talk to a Navy College Office counselor to find out whether the Navy funds the civilian ticket they want to get punched, Woods said.

Counselors can be found at Navy College offices or through the Virtual Education Center, which offers help via phone or online chat.

The Navy doesn't keep a list of civilian clock-hour courses it will pay for, Smith said, but the Veterans Affairs Department lists theirs online (see above), and sailors are eligible for all of the VA offerings. While not a complete list of all the Navy offers, it will give you an idea.

The same Navy education counselors, he said, can help sailors find vocational programs along with helping them secure needed funding through either Navy COOL or TA programs.

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