After being suspended in an attempt to meet the provisions of the Budget Control Act, the tuition assistance (TA) program has been reinstated for members of all branches of military service. This comes after the recent passage of an amendment barring the armed services from cutting all funding for the TA program.
The amendment applied only to branches covered under the Department of Defense budget, leaving the Coast Guard initially exempt since it falls under the Department of Homeland Security. However, the Coast Guard has joined the other military service branches in reinstating tuition assistance for the remainder of fiscal 2013 but with revised eligibility requirements, which help ensure that the $4.6 million set aside to fund the program is enough to sustain it through the end of the fiscal year.
To qualify for tuition assistance, Coast Guard members must meet the previously existing and the newly established eligibility requirements. In order to meet the new eligibility requirements, members must be on active duty at the rank of petty officer first class or below (pay grade E-6 or below) or be a reservist on extended active duty, including ADOS or EAD contracts. Tuition reimbursement is available for undergraduate courses only, for a maximum of six semester credits or up to nine quarter credits per fiscal quarter.
In addition, applicants must make satisfactory progress toward completion of qualifications for their billets, make satisfactory progress toward watch-standing qualifications, demonstrate satisfactory proficiency in their craft and have demonstrated satisfactory conduct during the last six months.
In order to satisfy pre-existing eligibility requirements, members can only use TA for courses that are part of a degree program or for foreign language courses that support the Coast Guard's foreign language program. Courses must be taken at a regionally or nationally accredited institution of higher learning and non-academic language programs cannot be funded with TA.
TA is only available for courses that result in the student earning transferable college credits, which means that it cannot be used for CEUs (continuing education units), PDUs (professional development units) or clock hours. Also, those using TA for the first time must have requested an education assessment and received a transcript from the Coast Guard Institute within the previous four years.
The maximum amount paid for tuition assistance is 100 percent of tuition expenses, not to exceed $250 per semester credit hour ($166 per quarter credit hour) or $4,500 per fiscal year. In addition to tuition fees, other direct expenses for instruction such as laboratory, studio and shop fees may also be covered.
TA cannot be used to reimburse students for indirect fees and expenses, which include:
Students should note that Coast Guard TA cannot be used in conjunction with any GI Bill benefit for the same course. However, if TA doesn’t cover the entire cost of a course, students who are eligible for benefits under either the Montgomery GI Bill or the Post-9/11 GI Bill can use an option called top-up, which may reimburse costs not covered by TA. GI Bill benefits can also be used to cover fees not reimbursed by TA.
Regular and Reserve officers incur service obligations when they use TA, which begin on the date the most recent course taken ends. Regular officers incur a two-year service obligation for each course they use TA to pay for. For Reserve officers, the obligation is four years per course. Service obligations run concurrently, not consecutively. This means that for students who use TA to pay for another course that ends before a previous obligation ends, their obligation is extended to the date that is two or four years after the date they completed the most recent course paid for with TA, rather than adding it to the end of the current obligation.
Prospective students are highly encouraged to conduct their own research, as government rulings and regulations change frequently, and should consult an education service officer for the most accurate and up-to-date information on tuition assistance benefits, eligibility and requirements.