Whether you are on a ship at sea or at a base stateside, the Navy provides tuition assistance so that you can pursue your higher education goals while serving in the Navy.
The Navy College (TA) Program has been around since 1974. Today the program is primarily online, and you can apply for TA virtually or in-person at your base’s education office. In addition to registering for TA online, you can also research programs and speak with a college counselor.
Navy Tuition Assistance (TA) Benefits
All military branches have government-funded tuition assistance programs that pay for in-class programs and online learning while you are on active duty. This financial assistance is not a loan and you are not obligated to repay it. Additionally, although you may start utilizing your GI Bill benefits while serving, tuition assistance may be used in conjunction with the GI Bill or independently- which extends the amount of education the government will cover, in exchange for your service. Utilizing this benefit is at the discretion of your Command, and just like a part-time job, MUST be approved by your Chain of Command. The following are additional eligibility requirements when using this Navy benefit:
- All applicants – Sailors, Officers, Reservists – must have 2 years of service before applying for TA
- Complete all TA application requirements including education counseling courses
- Attend an accredited institution (including online programs)
- Be on active duty through course completion (do not wait to start TA until you are out-processing)
- Maintain at least a C average for undergraduate courses and B average for graduate courses
- Officers utilizing the program are required to extend their service time
- Voluntary course withdrawal must be repaid, however involuntary withdrawal due to the need of the United States military are an exception
Tuition assistance across all branches is dependent on the Pentagon’s budget and should therefore not be counted on when budgeting for your studies while on Active Duty. Due to the demand for TA among Active Duty personnel, the Navy tightened up its restrictions. Your priority when you enlist is service to our Country and as such, acceptance into TA classes and continued use of this benefit is at the discretion of the United States Navy. If your Command feels your on-duty work is suffering, you may not be approved for future or continued study. Finally, TA is designed to help with advanced degree completion. Unfortunately, many participants were taking courses that did not culminate with a degree, increasing scrutiny on future applicants.
Command Approval Requirements
- One year on-board in first permanent duty station
- Will remain active duty through course completion
- May not be under instruction or in training status
- No NJP within six months or pending administrative separation
- Successful completion or waiver of Physical Fitness Assessment
- If applicable, complete advancement exam and be recommended for advancement or promotion
Navy Tuition Assistance Coverage
Navy tuition assistance pays for 100% of up-front costs associated with tuition and fees for course enrollments- which is slightly more liberal than the other branches who only pay for direct tuition. Important limits to know are $250 per semester hour or $166.67 per quarter hour with a yearly limit of $3,000, which equals 12 semester hours or 18 quarter hours. Total lifetime use for each Sailor enrolled in the program is limited to 120 semester hours or 180 quarter hours. This amount will pay for most community and state programs, including schools located near military bases who adjust their fees to help active duty military members pursue higher education. You will be required to repay your tuition assistance for any undergraduate classes in which you receive a D or below, graduate classes with a grade of C or lower, and any classes that are graded as non-passing or incomplete.
How to Apply for Navy TA Benefits
Begin the application process by contacting the Navy College Office or Virtual Education center and drafting an education plan with your counselor. You can do this in person or virtually, which is especially useful when you are on a WestPac deployment. Your education plan goes over the courses you are requesting tuition assistance for and what your goals are. Complete this process, including securing final Command approval, at least 30 days prior to the beginning of class. This allows for any changes your Chain of Command may request and protects you from being responsible for school application fees and tuition costs not approved by your Command. Your college counselor may suggest you take CLEP or DSST tests, which replace actual class time and maximize the funds you request. The following are steps outlined by the Navy to successfully apply for TA:
- Inform your Chain of Command.
- For first time TA users, you must complete two online courses: TA Policy and Procedures Training AND the Virtual Counseling 101 found at MyNavy Educationor through the Navy College Program Mobile App, available for iPhone and android.
- Create your education plan online or in-person. Remember, the Navy has many additional resources to help you decide what you want to study and how to successfully utilize this active duty benefit.
- After you submit your education plan you may fill out your TA application. Note: both the education plan and TA application must be approved by your Command.
- Apply for tuition assistance electronically by clicking on Secure Tuition Assistance & Other Funding at navycollege.navy.mil, or log in through CAC or DEERS.
- Once you have completed all the pre-requisites and paperwork, if you are approved you will be issued an education voucher that you may apply to your chosen school program. Remember: TA is issued per your approved education plan and individual courses, not your degree as a whole.
Additional Navy TA Restrictions
The Navy will pay for relevant course application fees. However, to avoid any confusion and unplanned out of pocket costs, be aware of the following, and if in doubt, ASK:
- The cost of books and electronic programs are NOT covered
- Courses including online programs MUST be chain of command approved and in your education plan- or you could end up reimbursing the Navy
- For Naval Reservists to utilize this benefit, it requires length of concurrent active duty service. Please consult a Navy college counselor and/or your Reserve unit before beginning
- If you are in a government paid program at a civilian school, you may not concurrently study off-duty using TA
- The purpose of TA is for higher level degrees and not for additional degrees at your current degree level
- Necessary course application fees are covered, not general school enrollment fees
- Additional exceptions apply to your first duty station- every Sailor’s situation is different so please consult your command to find out your eligibility and if this is the right time in your Naval career to pursue your higher education goals
NCPACE Distance Learning (DL) Program Overview
In addition to tuition assistance, the Navy has the NCPACE program. This is specifically for Sailors and Reservists under orders that preclude them from traditional learning or take them where they do not have consistent internet access for online programs. You can pursue certification and technical programs in addition to degree programs. This is particularly useful if you have a rate that requires you to test out at a higher level to advance your rank or cross-train. Like regular TA, the Navy will not cover the costs of books, equipment, or additional fees. The application process is the same and due to the additional restrictions and potential deployment conditions, it would be wise to start the application process well before the start of your course and orders.
If you need additional funding for your chosen program, you may use your GI Bill or apply for federal financial aid such as the Pell Grant. Your school’s financial aid office can help you with this and walk you through filling out the FAFSA. The Federal Perkins Loan Cancellation program is government-sponsored and can cancel your current student loan debt if you have served on active duty during combat. Due to the increase of combined branch installations and utilization of Navy Individual Augmentees, more Sailors are covered under combat status programs. It is very important to keep records when applying for service-related loan repayment or scholarship programs. Programs such as The Student Loan Repayment Program (LRP) can repay part of your current education incurred debt. Each of these loan forgiveness and repayment programs have specific eligibility criteria. Talk with your school’s financial aid office and your on-base education office about these options and other military scholarships that you may qualify for. Depending on your length of service, you may be eligible for different “versions” of the GI Bill. To understand your specific eligibility, please speak with a college counselor or even a non-profit Veteran service organization. Few active duty service members realize that you are eligible for many non-profit Veteran programs including just asking for advice. If you are injured during service, you may also be eligible for the VA Vocational Rehabilitation Program in addition to the GI Bill.
Final Thoughts on Navy Tuition Assistance
Utilizing Navy TA is a great way to get a jump on your higher education goals before dipping into your GI Bill funds. Veteran friends of mine have managed to achieve their master’s degree all on service-related funds, so it can be done! TA can also help you reach your Navy career goals. Additional off-duty learning can prepare you for your next advancement exam, adding you to the list of new First Class Petty Officers for your rate. The most important thing to remember is to pursue higher education when it is the right time for you. Consult your Chain of Command, Navy college counselor and fellow Sailors who have used TA in the past; and develop a plan that makes sense for you and where you are at in your career.
Tia Christopher is a proud US Navy Veteran. Christopher’s writing has focused on explaining military benefits in plain language and helping fellow service members transition from the military. Christopher was recognized in 2013 by the White House as a Woman Veteran Champion of Change.
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