VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (NNS) -- The Center for Personal and Professional Development (CPPD) is asking Sailors to submit their Navy Tuition Assistance (TA) requests - and now would be good -- said the director of Navy Voluntary Education (VOLED) March 3.
According to Ernest D'Antonio, CPPD's VOLED program director, the expenditure rate for TA funding is currently below normal levels, which means there's more funding available than usual at this time of the year. "We use historical 'burn rates' as a guide for allocating TA funding throughout the year," he said. "We plan really well for routine years. After furloughs and a government shutdown, Fiscal Year 2014 (FY-14) hasn't been a routine year," he said.
Lt. Cmdr. Mark Wadsworth, director of CPPD Support Site Saufley Field in Pensacola, Fla., leads the team that monitors CPPD's Navy TA spending. He said FY-14 TA execution is currently trailing FY-13's execution rate by just over $6 million year-to-date.
"We think a variety of things influenced our being below the TA budget right now," said Wadsorth. "Our execution rate dropped in October with the government shutdown and that's carried through the year. The usage rate steadily increased in November and December. But then it dropped back down in January, probably due to uncertainty with the federal budget. Although we have funding now, the usage rate hasn't increased significantly since then. Sailors need to understand that their education benefits reset each year, and unused amounts don't carry over."
D'Antonio said, "We want Sailors to continue to pursue their education and submit their TA requests - we work hard to allocate every TA dollar available to give Sailors the most opportunities to use their TA funding allotment for each fiscal year."
He said more than 25,000 Sailors have used TA benefits so far this fiscal year and emphasized that a Sailor's command is an important part of TA authorizations because they're the first step in the process after a Sailor submits a request.
"It's each command's responsibility to ensure their Sailors are aware of and meet all relevant TA policies, are comfortable with their Sailors' ability to complete a requested course, and process each Sailor's TA request promptly," said D'Antonio.
"A command approver can review a Sailor's request and deny it if all Navy requirements aren't met, if the Sailor's performance isn't up to standards, or if the command's mission might not permit the Sailor to complete the course. Ultimately, it's the commanding officer's decision," said D'Antonio.
D'Antonio also recommended each command approver continually review the Sailor's education progress.
"Our biggest reason for disapproval of TA requests is they aren't received from the Sailor's command approver prior to the course start date, as required by DOD instruction. Often when we review a TA request, a Sailor may be missing some of the TA prerequisites such as a current education counseling by a Navy College Office (NCO) or Virtual Education Center (VEC) counselor, or an individual education plan or degree plan on file, or missing a grade from a past course," he said.
VOLED professionals work with Sailors to get the requirements in on time, but if the Sailor's account is incomplete or not updated before the course start date, they are unable to fund the TA request, D'Antonio said. "So I repeat this message constantly: 30 days prior to the course start date is not too soon for Sailors to submit their TA request. In fact, a TA application can be submitted a year before the actual class start date, which will help ensure the Sailor's TA request is funded and allows us to better manage expenditures."
D'Antonio also stressed that Sailors should work closely with an NCO or VEC counselor to help them reach their educational goals. "The VOLED team is here to help, bottom line. Our job is to work with Sailors, inform them about options, provide impartial counseling and point out avenues for Sailors to pursue their life-long educational and credentialing goals."
According to CPPD Commanding Officer Capt. John Newcomer, Navy leaders are committed to providing Sailors with voluntary education opportunities.
"We know that educated Sailors are strong performers with well-developed critical thinking skills and the ability to make informed decisions," said Newcomer. "A college degree is an investment in a Sailor and a contributing factor in Navy mission accomplishment."
For more information about the Center for Personal and Professional Development (CPPD), visit: www.netc.navy.mil/centers/cppd/. For more news from the Center for Personal and Professional Development, visit: www.navy.mil/local/voledpao/. Find CPPD on Facebook and on Twitter @CENPERSPROFDEV.