By Ed Barker
Naval Education and Training Professional Development Center Public Affairs
Sailors planning to take college courses this fall using Tuition Assistance (TA) should submit their requests as soon as possible, so they may be reviewed and approved before classes start.
According to Ernest D'Antonio, the Naval Education and Training Professional Development Technology Center's Voluntary Education (VOLED) program director, the number one reason for problems with TA requests is late applications.
"Summer is a historically slow time in terms of receiving and processing TA requests," said D'Antonio. "Sailors who get a head start on their applications have the best chance of having their requests approved. Service members are required to obtain approval for TA funding before the official start of a course."
D'Antionio added TA approval is a multi-step process, and if there is a problem, the request gets held-up until the Virtual Education Center (VEC) staff can troubleshoot and fix it.
"It's crucial for commands to make sure that their Sailors know to start the process early, so that TA applications can be completed by the VEC in advance of the deadline," he said. "We are currently authorizing TA requests based on term start dates."
VEC Supervisor Susan Sutter noted TA applications are funded on a first-come, first-served basis.
"There's no risk in applying early; we can modify or cancel the TA voucher after the fact if necessary with no harm to the Sailor," she said. "But if TA requests are received by the VOLED team on or after the class begins, the TA requests will be denied in accordance with policy guidelines -- putting Sailors in a potentially tough financial situation if the course is not dropped. That's why early TA submission, coupled with a well-defined education/degree plan is strongly recommended."
Sutter detailed the required steps that must be taken for a TA request to be approved; Sailors must:
1) Be counseled by their local Navy College Office or the VEC
2) Complete WebTA training
3) Have an education/degree plan on file (with the course that the Sailor is requesting TA for included in the plan)
4) Receive command approval on their TA request
"Sailors also must have completed at least 12 months on board their first permanent duty station, have no missing grades, not owe the Navy any funds for incomplete or failed courses, and have an end-of-obligated service date after the course ends," Sutter added.
Both D'Antonio and Sutter also stressed Sailors should monitor their information and status through the MyEducation portal on the Navy College website to ensure their accounts are posted and accurate, and their degree plans are current. The MyEducation portal is available 24/7.
If a Sailor or command have any questions or experience any problems, they should contact the VEC for assistance. The VEC is open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. EST Monday-Friday and may be reached by calling 1-(877) 838-1659, or by email at VEC@navy.mil.
For more information on the Navy College Program and the Virtual Education Center visit http://www.navycollege.navy.mil/ or http://www.facebook.com/NavyVoluntaryEducation/.