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Coast Guard returns to cost-sharing plan for tuition assistance

Nov. 21, 2013 - 04:54PM   |  
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The Coast Guard is reinstating cost-sharing for its tuition assistance program in fiscal 2014, according to a Wednesday news release — a return to a program that went away 12 years ago.

Effective immediately, the service will fund 75 percent of tuition costs up to $187.50 per credit hour, with a $2,250 cap, through Sept. 30, 2014. Coast Guardsmen will be responsible for any costs beyond those limits.

The program applies to undergraduate courses only and is open to enlisted members and prior-enlisted officers who haven’t completed an undergraduate degree. That’s a change from an Aug. 6 expansion of the program that opened it to all Coast Guardsmen for all degree levels through Sept. 30 of this year — and didn’t require cost-sharing.

“We have to balance off-duty education with training that specifically prepares the Coast Guard’s workforce to meet front-line mission objectives and further our junior members’ careers,” said Rear Adm. Scott Buschman, head of Force Readiness Command, in the release. “Any changes ... were made in the best interest of our personnel and mission execution within the constraints of an ever-tightening budget environment.”

The service spent more than $12 million on TA in fiscal year 2013, according to FRC spokesman Chief Warrant Officer 2 Donnie Brzuska. There is $7.8 million available for this fiscal year, he added, because of a cut in the service’s training and education budget.

To assure full funding for “A” and “C” schools, he said, cuts had to come from TA. This is the first time since 2002 the Coast Guard has used cost-sharing to fund TA benefits.

Rather than limiting funding to certain ranks, the service decided cost-sharing would allow at least some benefits to get to the widest-possible pool of applicants.

TA is not available for Coast Guard civilians, reservists in drilling status or Coasties who already possess an undergraduate degree, including those pursuing graduate studies.

“Our service has historically strived for equity in tuition assistance benefits for civilians and military members within its workforce,” Buschman said. “However, our fiscal environment requires us to more closely align with the other armed services and only extend benefits to active-duty service members.”

Full details on the change are available in a servicewide message, ALCOAST 502/13, released Wednesday.

“The change to the tuition assistance program remains in the best interests of our personnel and mission execution,” Brzuska said. “We encourage people to continue their off-duty education through alternative resources.”

For information on other funding sources, including grants, scholarships and the GI Bill, visit the Coast Guard Institute’s website at http://www.uscg.mil/hq/cg1/cgi/.

The Navy, which used a 75-25 service-sailor split for its TA program until moving to full funding in 2000, has also considered a return to the old program, possibly as early as fiscal 2015, though no decision has been made.

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