The Navy’s tuition assistance program ran dry in late May and the service wont’ refill depleted coffers until Oct. 1, at the earliest.
“The Navy’s programmed tuition assistance funding was exhausted on 28 May,” Chief of Naval Personnel spokeswoman Capt. Amy Derrick told Navy Times on Thursday. “Despite funding being exhausted, sailors whose TA applications were approved through 28 May will be taking courses through the end of the [fiscal year].”
In April, Navy officials predicted the program would soon run dry of dollars. They warned sailors that the service would break with tradition and forgo ferreting out extra funds to cover the deficit, citing other spending priorities.
Derrick said the final spending tally on TA during this fiscal year came in at "just over $77 million,” about $2 million more than was budgeted.
In FY 2018, the Navy ended up spending $91 million on TA, partly because of a 19 percent spending hike caused by the service relaxing TA usage rules.
Funding will resume when federal lawmakers earmark it, most likely in October if there’s an approved defense budget, Derrick said.
“Navy will begin approving FY20 TA applications as soon as funding is allocated to the program.” she added.
But when that federal money begins flowing into the TA program, it will come with tough new restrictions, according to a May 21 announcement.
The Navy’s new regs include a ban on officers and enlisted personnel using TA during their initial two years on active duty. Unlike previous prohibitions, this one can’t be hurdled with a waiver issued by a commanding officer.
Annual TA allotments will be capped at $3,000 per sailor, which translates to 12 credit hours at $250 per hour.
The service also will cap all off-duty college benefits at 120 semester hours over the course of a career, about the number of credits needed to earn an undergraduate degree.
Sailors who lose out on TA money can still fund their classes out of pocket or draw on their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, Derrick said.
Mark D. Faram is a former reporter for Navy Times. He was a senior writer covering personnel, cultural and historical issues. A nine-year active duty Navy veteran, Faram served from 1978 to 1987 as a Navy Diver and photographer.