Before using tuition aid, sailors should take advantage of free programs, including the Navy College Program for Afloat College Education. Here, an NCPACE instructor helps a sailor aboard the amphibious assault ship Kearsarge. (MC3 Cristina Gabaldon / Navy)
The tuition assistance roller coaster appears to have come to a stop.
The Navy’s TA program will remain fully funded this year, and sailors will not be asked to pony up additional funds.
“Tuition assistance is still at 100 percent, and I’m working to keep it that way,” said Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert in a video blog this month. “I think that’s where we need to be.”
In the face of budget cuts, Navy leaders had endorsed a plan that would have funded 75 percent of an individual’s tuition and then required that sailor to pay the rest. But that plan appears dead in the water for the foreseeable future.
The intent for fiscal year 2014 is to keep funding 100 percent of TA, officials said.
So sailors still have TA at their disposal, but there’s a right way and wrong way to use it.
Most sailors are eligible for the benefit, 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 last 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.
Finding free credits
You may already have some college credit and not know about it. Obtain your Joint Service Transcript before enrolling. For your transcript, visit the Navy College program’s website at www.navycollege.navy.mil. This will tell you what college credit you already have. Any “A” and “C” school training, for example, will net you college credit. Even boot camp could help you secure phys ed credit, if your university requires 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. Exams offered include the College Level Examination Program, Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (better known as DANTES) subject exams and exams offered by Navy partner schools such as Excelsior College. Some tests can net up to six college credits.
There’s little chance to use TA while on deployment. But you can still get credits underway through the Navy College Program for Afloat College Education. Many ships deploy with NCPACE instructors, who offer a variety of classes in a traditional classroom setting onboard a ship. In addition, distance education classes can be taken while underway, usually on CD-ROM.
Pick the right school
The Navy has agreements with 34 partner schools to help streamline the degree process. These colleges are required to give maximum credit to sailors for their Navy training and experience.
Simply put, these degrees are based on your rating and experience levels and can be the quickest route to a degree. Each school offers associate and bachelor’s degrees tailored to individual ratings. Classes are taken over the Internet or on CD-ROM; degree options are available at the college site.
Officials also suggest planning your TA carefully; for example, don’t take a basic English class at a major university when a community college offers the same course for less.