Free graduate school for Navy's top junior officers

If you're a starhigh-performing lieutenant, brace yourself. You might be getting tapped for free graduate school soonnext falla call with a chance to attend graduate school next fall.

The first round of selectees for the Navy's new Fleet Scholars Education Program will be notified in the coming weeks, according to officials, with an offer to earn a Navy-funded master's degree in-residence as part of a permanent change-of-station move.

The program, first announced by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus in May, allows up to 30 lieutenants to attend elite graduate school for up to two years, in exchange for adding three years to their service obligations as part of Navy Secretary Ray Mabus' push to keep the best officers. NEED TO SAY HERE WHO PAYS FOR IT AND HOW

But Unlike several of the Navy's other opportunities to further training and education, you don't apply for this one.

Instead, community managers at Navy Personnel Command identify their best top-performing lieutenants and send a list to each type commander — aviation, surface, submarines, special warfare, expeditionary and information dominance — to hand-pick their selectees.

"Most of our processes like these, members go before a board to be selected," said Fred Drummond, Navy education strategy and policy branch head for the chief of naval personnel. "In this case, these are the communities themselves looking at their top talent."

Because of that, he told Navy Times in an Oct. 19 phone interview, Each community is responsible for their own selection criteria.

"Our biggest direction — this comes from CNP — is that the selection process for each community has to be fair, equitable and defendable," he said in an Oct. 19 phone interview.

The program is aimed at O-3s, he added, but the guidelines allow from some lieutenant-selects or top-notchhigh performing lieutenant commanders to take advantage.

It's a talent management initiative, Drummond said, so it's aimed at a career stage in where which junior officers might be considering leaving the Navy to pursue other opportunities, including a graduate degree.

There are seven spots open each for the aviation, surface and sub communities, plus four for special warfare, three for Naval Expeditionary Combat Command and six for Information Dominance Forces Command.

The numbers were decided on mostly by size of community, except for IDFC.

"It's those folks that this is specifically targeted at," Drummond said, which is why it has more billets than the other smaller type commands.

However, type commanders do not have to offer all of their spots to their top performers, and if someone declines their selection, they don't have to be replaced.

"There are a lot of opportunities for each community, but if in their mind they don't have enough viable candidates — or they have enough viable candidates but there other reasons preclude them taking this opportunity — then no, they don't have to take them," Drummond said.

The encourage the program, he said, type commanders have been briefed on the benefits.

It's not available to those who have already completed Navy-funded graduate degrees, but that doesn't include funding through the GI Bill, tuition assistance or Navy College Program for Afloat College Education. IS THIS OF OR OR FOR NCPACE?/SF

Getting picked

Notifications are behind schedule, Drummond said, but he could not give a definite timeline.

Those who get the call in the coming weeks and want to take the opportunity should apply to at least three graduate programs of their choosing, according to a NAVADMIN 254/15 message released Thursday.

The Navy will reimburse selectees for up to three application and transcript fees. The service will also cover the entire cost of the two-year program and moving expenses, if necessary.

That could mean up to $125,000 for a married officer living off campus while attending Stanford University's business school, according to their financial aid office.

However, those who take the offer but haven't done any legwork yet could be in a bind.

For instance, the fall 2016 admissions deadline to the Harvard University Kennedy School of Management is Dec. 1. On the other hand, many of San Diego State University's graduate programs accept applications until April.

However, for a lieutenant who hadn't been contemplating graduate school, it's only a few months to research programs, take admissions tests, write essays and gather letters of recommendation.

"We would have preferred to give people time enough to be selected and then apply for graduate programs," Drummond said.

For those that But, if you do decide to take the offer, the program will cover admission for the winter 2017 term as well.

Drummond acknowledged it could still be tricky to turn the process around on short notice, but said that the type commanders can be a little flexible.

"We understand the time constraint as we implement this program," he said. "We have the latitude in there, depending on what each individual circumstance might end up being."

FSEP only covers two-year degrees, though, so officers are not able to earn doctorates or some completely professional degrees qualifications like law or medical school. The service offers , though the Navy has separate programs for those looking to become judge advocates or join Navy medicine.

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