Navy Cracking Down on Tuition Assistance Eligibility

student in classroom

With its 2019 funding for Tuition Assistance (TA) running out this month, the Navy has decided to make changes to who can use the active-duty education benefit, as well as how much they can use each year.

In a message to the fleet, Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. Robert Burke said that the service's demand for TA benefits was 30% higher than at the same point last fiscal year. As a result, changes will be made effective Oct. 1, 2019, which marks the beginning of fiscal 2020.

Burke also said that many junior sailors were using the benefit to attend college classes and not focusing on their military training.

Tuition Assistance Running Out

The service expects its allocation for TA funding to run out by the end of this month, with no additional money coming from the Pentagon. As a result, no new TA requests will be approved for the four months remaining in this fiscal year.

Sailors currently taking classes or who have an approved and funded TA voucher aren't affected.

Changes Coming for 2020

To prevent the problem from recurring next year, the Navy is cracking down on who can qualify for tuition assistance and how much they can use.

Effective next fiscal year, all enlisted personnel and officers must have a minimum of two years of service to be eligible to use TA or any Navy College Program for Afloat College Education (NCPACE) courses. This restriction may not be waived, according to the message.

Just two months ago, the Marine Corps removed its time-in-service requirement to receive TA, the last service to do so.

In addition to requiring at least two years of time in service, the Navy will also limit how much TA any sailor can use. Starting in fiscal 2020, all sailors are limited to 12 semester hours (or equivalent quarter hours) per fiscal year. The message also capped TA reimbursement at 120 semester hours per career.

These new rules also extend to the Navy's NCPACE program. NCPACE allows sailors onboard ships to take college classes through instructor led (NCPACE-IL) or distance learning (NCPACE-DL) classes.

Besides requiring at least two years time in service before enrolling in any NCPACE programs, the new regulations limit sailors to 12 semester hours per year and 120 per career of NCPACE-DL classes.

Sailors Need to Focus on Military Duties and Training

According to the message, some sailors are using up the benefits without ever completing a degree.

"Today, we have some Sailors pursuing multiple degrees and others who take multiple courses without completing a degree. Use of TA must focus on degree completion," it states. "In addition, we have many very junior Sailors maxing out TA usage at a time in their Navy career when they should be focused on warfighting and warfare qualifications.

"While committed to allowing Sailors to pursue off-duty education, operational readiness is the top priority," it continues. "The Navy is, first and foremost, a warfighting organization. We need qualified and proficient warfighters."

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