Written by Chief Warrant Officer Donnie Brzuska, Force Readiness Command.
Effective immediately, the Coast Guard is reinstating cost-sharing for its Tuition Assistance Program in Fiscal Year 2014 for the first time since 2002 after reductions to its training budget.
Active Duty Coast Guardsmen are eligible for tuition assistance for undergraduate courses only in Fiscal Year 2014. This will be on a cost share basis with the Coast Guard funding 75 percent of the tuition cost not to exceed $187.50 per credit hour. The member will be responsible for any tuition above $187.50 per credit hour. The total individual cap for tuition assistance in the fiscal year is $2,250, which extends from Oct. 1, 2013, to Sept. 30, 2014.
“The Coast Guard is committed to supporting its members’ personal and professional educational goals,” said Rear Adm. Scott Buschman, the commanding officer of Coast Guard Force Readiness Command. “Any changes to the Tuition Assistance Program were made in the best interest of our personnel and mission execution within the constraints of an ever-tightening budget environment.”
Tuition assistance now focuses limited funds on junior enlisted members, senior enlisted members and prior enlisted officers who may not have completed their undergraduate degree. This change also prioritizes necessary funding to maintain throughput to “A” and “C” schools and complete training, which are a requirement for military readiness and personnel advancement.
“Tuition assistance is designed to assist Coast Guard personnel in broadening academic or technical background by providing funding for off-duty independent education,” said Buschman. “We have to balance off-duty education with training that specifically prepares the Coast Guard’s workforce to meet frontline mission objectives and further our junior members’ careers.”
Coast Guard leaders believe junior enlisted members have the most potential for growth, the longest potential time horizon and the least financial resources. The cost-share program helps these members be competitive for officer selection programs and contributes to their success as senior enlisted members by supporting them in obtaining an undergraduate degree. Meanwhile, senior enlisted members and prior enlisted officers need the knowledge base an undergraduate degree provides to manage increased expectations and responsibilities on the job, and the Coast Guard Tuition Assistance Program helps prepare them to meet those challenges.
Tuition assistance benefits will not be extended to civilian employees, Coast Guard Reservists in a drilling status and those active duty Coast Guardsmen pursuing a graduate degree or another degree at the same level which they already possess. Additionally, tuition assistance will not be available to active duty members who do not demonstrate satisfactory progress toward watch station qualifications, sufficient proficiency of craft and good conduct.
“Our service has historically strived for equity in tuition assistance benefits for civilians and military members within its workforce,” said Buschman. “However, our fiscal environment requires us to more closely align with the other armed services and only extend benefits to active duty servicemembers.”
Numerous alternate funding and educational resources are available for Coast Guardsmen and civilian employees including grants, scholarships, the College Level Examination Program and the Montgomery and Post-9/11 G.I. Bills. For more information on these resources, please visit the Coast Guard Institute’s website.
Questions about the Tuition Assistance Program should be directed to unit educational service officers.