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The US Navy offers its Sailors a Tuition Assistance (TA) program to provide funds for off-duty education programs. This is an incredibly valuable benefit as furthering your education can help you gain promotions while you are still in the service, as well as help you find a higher paying job when you retire or otherwise leave the military.
The Navy Tuition Assistance program has undergone some small changes recently, and what follows are the rules and TA rates for FY 2021.
Approval is required before you will be able to use TA funds, so be sure to read all the fine print and contact your education office if you have more questions.
Let’s dive in and take a look at what the US Navy Tuition Assistance program offers, who is eligible, which educational programs are covered, and how to take advantage of this valuable benefit.
FY 2021 Navy Tuition Assistance Benefits Updates
The following rates are effective immediately and are in place from October 1, 2020, through September 30, 2021. The rates after that will depend on the approved Navy budget.
2021 Tuition Assistance Rates: The Navy Tuition Assistance Program pays for 100% of up-front costs associated with tuition and fees for course enrollments, up to the following rates:
- $250.00 per semester hour, or
- $166.67 per quarter hour, or
- $16.67 per clock hour, AND
- Max Benefit Per Fiscal Year: $4,500
- Limited to a fiscal year cap of 12 semester hours, 18 quarter hours, or 180 clock hours (or combination). The fiscal year cap applies to both TA and Navy College Program Afloat College Education (NCPACE) DL combined.
- Limited to a lifetime cap of 120 semester hours, 180 quarter hours, 1800 clock hours (or combination). The lifetime credit cap applies to both TA and NCPACE DL combined.
Note: The Navy often adjusts the annual credit hour limit. The previous rules had no cap, while others capped tuition assistance benefits at a maximum of 16 Semester Hours (24 Quarter Hours or 240 Clock Hours) per Fiscal Year.
Sailors Responsible for Costs Above Limits:
Navy personnel are responsible for any associated costs with their education above the $250 per credit hour limit and/or the $4,500 annual benefit limit.
Sailors are also responsible for any fees, books, instructional materials, and other associated expenses.
Navy Tuition Assistance Eligibility
Tuition Assistance benefits are available to both officers and enlisted personnel who are serving on active duty, as well as Reservists serving on continuous active duty. Eligibility is also extended to Enlisted Naval Reservists are called to active duty for at least 120 consecutive days, and to Naval Reservist Officers ordered to active duty for 2 years or more.
To qualify, servicemembers must:
- Be on active duty for the whole length of the course.
- Attend an institution accredited by a regional, national, or professional accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
- Receive counseling from a Navy College Office or a Virtual Education Center counselor.
- Provide all grades from previously funded TA courses.
- Sailors are required to reimburse the Navy for all grades below a C for undergraduate courses, or below a B for graduate courses. Members may also be required to reimburse the Navy for all Withdrawals from courses. (Withdrawals for involuntary reasons may be granted with command verification.)
- Agree, if an officer, to remain on active duty for at least two years upon completion of courses funded by TA. This obligation runs concurrently with remaining obligated service time. Those who fail to serve the obligation must repay the TA funds expended on their behalf during the last two years of active duty on a pro-rated basis.
Note: Beginning October 1, 2020:
- Active duty enlisted Sailors and Officers, including Naval Reservists, must have a minimum of two years of military service before becoming eligible to use TA or NCPACE funding.
Eligible Study Programs and Other Restrictions
The Navy Tuition Assistance Program can be used for the completion of a high school diploma or equivalency certificate, certain certifications, and college-level courses.
Tuition Assistance benefits can only be used for a higher level degree plan than the member has already been achieved unless specifically approved in advance. Here are some additional restrictions:
- WebTA applications must be command approved, received by the VEC and approved/funded prior to the course start date.
- TA cannot be used to pay for books, e-books, CD-ROMs, etc.
- TA cannot be used to pay for flight training.
- TA cannot be used by Naval Reservists if not on continuous active duty, by enlisted Naval Reservists if ordered to active duty less than 120 days, or by Naval Reservist Officers if ordered to active duty for less than 2 years or more.
- TA cannot be used by those in a duty-under-instruction status or in an officer accession program involving full-time instruction at a civilian institution.
- TA will only be approved for courses scheduled for one academic term at a time.
- TA will not be authorized for the same course previously funded by TA.
- TA will not fund school enrollment fees.
- TA will not fund active duty at their first permanent duty station for less than one year.
- TA cannot be authorized for a lower or lateral level degree.
Overall, the list of restrictions for the Navy TA program are fewer than those of the Army and US Air Force, which both have restrictions on which types of courses can be taken, and have more restrictions regarding who is eligible to take courses with TA funding.
Applying for Navy Tuition Assistance Benefits
Eligible Sailors need to contact their Navy College Office or the Virtual Education Center to first satisfy the requirement of receiving their educational counseling. This can be done in person, by phone, by email, or virtually, at https://www.navycollege.navy.mil/.
You will work with an academic advisor to help construct an education plan and to determine which classes you will request TA funding for. Your academic advisor may recommend you take CLEP/DSST tests to gain college credit in lieu of taking the actual courses if applicable.
This will help save you time and have additional funds available toward your credit limit cap each fiscal year. Taking college credit exams will also ensure more funds are available for others to take classes.
Allowable fees that can be funded under Tuition Assistance are:
- Fees directly required for course enrollment may be combined with tuition. Navy will pay fees that are published, mandatory, and charged for course enrollment not to exceed the caps of $250.00 per semester hour/$166.67 per quarter hour/$16.67 per clock hour.
- Mandatory non-reimbursable fees meeting the criteria listed above may be funded with TA. However, if the course is canceled allowing the tuition to be refunded, the student is responsible for paying the non-reimbursable fee.
- Sailors requesting payment of fees with tuition are responsible for providing accurate fee information to their Navy College Office or Virtual Education Center when applying for TA.
In order to receive TA funding, applications must be command approved before benefits will be paid. It is recommended you submit your application at least 30 days prior to your course start date.
Alternative Ways to Pay for College
There is a $3,000 annual Tuition Assistance benefit cap per fiscal year, which may or may not be enough to cover your degree plan. If you find yourself running out of funds, you may be able to continue your education with a little creative planning.
The first tip is to determine if there are any college placement exams that will work with your degree plan. Not all colleges accept these courses, so be sure to check with the education counselor at your college.
Taking college placement exams such as the CLEP and DANTES exams helped me shave a year off my degree plan when I took classes on active duty. Many colleges and universities also offer credits for military training, potentially eliminating some required coursework from your degree plan.
For more information, visit the Navy TA site here.
Photo credit: Defense Department graphic by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Kayla Jo Finley/Released