Navy increases the ceiling on student grant hours, but cuts overall funding and adds new eligibility restrictions
The Navy is adjusting its Student Support Policy for Fiscal Year 2022 so that Seafarers can earn 18 credit hours each year – up from 12 credit hours. However, the service also imposes new restrictions on who is eligible for student grants and reduces total funding by more than $ 20 million.
“We are committed to ensuring that fully qualified Sailors can take advantage of this expanded educational offering in ways that reinforce our commitment to professionalism, warfare and employee loyalty,” said Vice Admiral John B. Nowell Jr., chief of naval personnel, wrote in a new naval administrative message .
“Operational readiness remains our top priority,” Nowell wrote. “As always, commanding officers can set benchmark qualifications for sailors and officers under their command and manage off-duty training based on current or anticipated operational commitments.”
While the total number of semester credits Sailors can use annually has increased, Sailors are limited to tuition support to cover only two classes per quarter of the fiscal year, according to instructions from the Secretary of the Navy.
“The limit of two courses per fiscal quarter was added to ensure that sailors’ pursuit of off-duty training does not interfere with their professional development and duties,” said Lt. Travis Callaghan, a spokesman for the chief of naval personnel, in an email to Navy Times.
“Laboratory courses typically last four semester hours,” Callaghan said. “The guidelines for two courses per fiscal quarter offered greater flexibility than a limit of six semester hours per fiscal quarter, which would not allow a seaman to take a four-semester internship course and another three-semester course at the same time.”
Another significant change in policy is that sailors must have completed three years of service to be eligible for student aid, rather than two years of service. This means that those who started receiving study grants after two years of service, but have not yet reached three years, must interrupt their education.
Officers are also entitled to study grants if they are promoted to lieutenant.
And both active Sailors with less than 16 years of service and reservists in active service must remain on duty for at least 12 more months on their current enlistment or renewal when courses begin to qualify for student grant benefits.
“The 12-month policy is designed to encourage continued service in the Navy while recognizing the long-term career investment of Sailors who are nearing retirement,” the Navy said in a press release.
Reservists with one-year assignments also lose their entitlement to study grants under the new policy.
The Navy is also tightening the eligibility of those who are sentenced out of court or who are facing a court martial. While sailors were previously not eligible for study grants within the last six months, this has now been changed to 12 months.
All sailors must have at least 3.0 or more individual trait grades on their most recent observed fitness report in order to also qualify.
The Navy earmarked $ 67.37 million for student grants in FY22 – a decrease from the $ 88.54 million allocated for student grants in FY21. However, according to Callaghan, the Navy spent only $ 72.717 million in FY21 to fund eligible student grant applications, and the remaining funds were eventually diverted to other “high priority programs.”
Under the new policy, sailors are only allowed to spend $ 250 per semester hour per fiscal year on student grants – an increase over previous years. For example, Sailors were capped at $ 3,000 annually in student grants in FY20 after funds ran out prematurely in FY19.
More than 37,000 seafarers received student aid in FY21, and the Navy estimates that between 33,000 and 36,000 seafarers will receive student aid in FY22. In comparison, 36,704 seafarers used study support services in FY 20, compared to 38,853 seafarers in FY 2019.
That’s fewer sailors than in previous years. Between FY15 and FY18, the average annual number of Sailors benefiting from study grants was 44,000.
The new policy comes into force on October 1st.