NOVEMBER 4, 2014, VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (NNS) – Sailors who plan to take college courses in December and January using Tuition Assistance (TA) should submit their requests now so they may be reviewed in time for class.
Center for Personal and Professional Development (CPPD) Navy Voluntary Education (VOLED) Program Director Ernest D’Antonio said this is the best time for Sailors to begin the process of requesting TA.
“November is historically a slow month in terms of receiving and processing TA requests,” he said. “Sailors who plan and take action now are in the best position for having their requests authorized.”
For the last five fiscal years, average TA enrollments in October have been around 15,600. That number drops to 5,500 in November, according to Lt. Cmdr. Mark Wadsworth, director of CPPD Support Site Saufley Field in Pensacola, Florida, which administers Navy TA spending. The number of TA enrollments then triples in December to more than 17,000.
“Applying for TA in November for courses starting in December or January is a great way for Sailors to beat the surge and have their TA authorized early, giving them peace of mind and security that funding is in place for those courses,” Wadsworth said.
The Navy’s TA program is funded quarterly. When funding runs out for a given quarter, Sailors must wait until CPPD receives funding for the next quarter before their application can be authorized.
Additionally, applications are funded on a first-come, first-served basis and grouped by the term start date listed on the application, according to D’Antonio.
“We strongly recommend Sailors submit TA applications a minimum of 30 days in advance of the term start date, even if enrollment in the course with the school is still pending,” hea said. “We can modify or cancel the TA voucher after the fact with no harm to the Sailor.”
Very few Sailors submit their requests at least one month in advance, though.
“Many Sailors think once their command approver approves the request, it’s officially approved and the process is done; this isn’t the case,” he said. “Defense Department and Navy regulations require a TA voucher to be authorized by the VOLED team before the term start date. So if the VOLED team receives a command-approved request on or after the course start date, we are unable to authorize funding for the TA.”
Wadsworth also pointed out that Sailors may be unaware of how leave periods may affect their TA requests, both for command approvers and the VOLED staff, especially during the holidays.
“Sailors should be aware that leave schedules could affect the length of time it takes for the TA approval process,” saie Wadsworth. “We recommend Sailors follow up on the status of their requests to ensure they are routed and funded prior to the course start date.”
If requests are received on or after the date the term begins, those TA applications are denied. This can put Sailors in a difficult financial situation that could have been easily avoided.
Besides submitting their request early enough, Sailors must meet all TA eligibility requirements. These include having current education counseling; a current, approved education/degree plan; current TA policy and procedures training; command approval; and not exceeded their annual TA credit cap.
Counseling is more than just a check in the box. For example, Sailors may know that an education institution should be accredited but may not know the differences in the various types of accreditation, which should be a major consideration in their school selection.
“The reason for education counseling is to make sure Sailors choose the right courses for the right degree at the right accredited, reputable institution that best meets their personal education goals and career needs,” D’Antonio said. “Our VOLED professionals at Navy College Offices (NCOs) and the Virtual Education Center (VEC) provide impartial counseling to ensure Sailors know all their options and have the information they need to achieve their life-long educational and credentialing goals at the lowest cost to them and the Navy.”
Sailors can visit the Navy College Program website to get the latest VOLED information such as current policies and procedures, NCO locations and VEC contact information. Recent updates to the website include revised FAQs and an example of a command approval chit for Sailors to use when requesting TA.
According to CPPD Commanding Officer Capt. F. A. Reid, Sailors who take advantage of voluntary education opportunities tend to be strong performers.
“These Sailors demonstrate tangible skills such as good time management, study habits and decision making, as well as dedication to personal and professional development,” he said. “Sailors who invest in their own growth and education are the kind of committed professionals we want because their tangible skills result in valuable contributions to Navy mission accomplishment.”
For more information, Sailors can contact their servicing NCO or the VEC, or visit the Navy College Program website at https://www.navycollege.navy.mil/.