By Debbie Gregory.
The U.S. Navy was the only military branch that didn’t place heavy restrictions or make severe cuts to their Tuition Assistance (TA) program for Fiscal Year 2014. And surprisingly, there are fewer sailors and officers taking advantage of the educational program.
By March 2012, 29,000 Navy personnel were enrolled in TA. Last year there 28,000 enrolled. As of March 1, 2014 only 25,000 sailors and officers were enrolled in the Navy’s TA program. So far this fiscal year, the Navy has used $37 million of the $86 million that they were allotted for TA. With the reduced enrollment numbers, the Navy has spent $5 million less on TA than this time last year.
Many are blaming the decreased TA enrollment on uncertainty in the federal budget that included the government shut down last October. If the money set aside by the DOD for Navy TA is not used by the end of the fiscal year, it will be lost. But Navy officials still believe that enrollments will pick up and the funding will be used.
The Navy will reportedly be seeking $66 million for tuition assistance for FY 2015. This will be a $20 million reduction from the current year. Under next year’s proposed plan, Navy personnel will be forced to pay 25 % of their tuition, instead of the free schooling they receive now
“It has been said that ‘having skin in the game’ provides added incentive to stay focused and aligned with their education plans,” said Navy LCDR Chris Servello, spokesman for the Chief of Naval Personnel (CNO). “Once a final decision is made, we will provide updated guidance to the Fleet.”
Many sailor officers’ family members and advocates will complain about this proposed change to Navy TA. Everyone should be reminded that Tuition Assistance is not the Post-9/11 GI Bill, nor should it be used as a service member’s way to get a jump on their education before they transition out. Tuition Assistance is a tool used by the DOD to retain, educate and enhance service members for their military careers.