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What is tuition assistance (TA)?

Will TA pay for my books?

Do I incur a service obligation if I use TA?

Can I use TA and the GI Bill at the same time?

But I asked the VA if I can use my GI Bill benefits and tuition assistance at the same time and they said “Yes”. What gives?

How can I figure out if TA will pay for a course I want to take?

If I use TA to pay for the only course I need to complete a bachelor's degree, will TA later pay for courses necessary to get a second bachelor's degree?

How do I apply for TA?

Do I need to fill out any paper work regarding tuition assistance or anything like before I register for classes?

How long before a course starts do I have to apply for tuition assistance?

How do I know when my TA request has been approved?

I just got my tuition assistance authorization, what do I do with it?

What happens if I go to pay for my courses and find out a course on my authorization is full and I can't take it?

What happens if I don’t finish a course I used tuition assistance to pay for?

How do I cancel an authorization?


What is tuition assistance?

Tuition assistance (TA) is money the Coast Guard pays to colleges and universities for the tuition costs of courses you take from them. TA is available to all uniformed personnel (regular and drilling Reservists), civilian Coast Guard employees, and commissioned Public Health Service officers who are serving with the Coast Guard. It may be used for off-duty courses related to the Coast Guard's missions or to your career and professional development. As the budget allows, the Coast Guard pays tuition costs for academic and vocational courses as follows:

  • up to $250 per semester hour (academic)

  • up to $166.67 per quarter hour (academic)

  • up to $16.67 per clock hour (vocational)

On top of these limits the Coast Guard (and all the DoD services) impose a $4,500 cap on the total amount of TA a person may use each fiscal year.

Tuition assistance will not reimburse you for tuition you've already paid for out of your pocket. It is paid directly to the school.

All courses for which you want to use TA must be taken from nationally or regionally accredited institutions. Also, to qualify for TA, the credit you earn for a course – whether college credit, clock hours, or contact hours – must be transferable. TA is not authorized for Continuing Education Units (CEUs), Professional Development Units (PDUs), and non-accredited clock or Non-accredited contact hours.

Will TA pay for my books?

The short answer is "no". As the name implies, TA is financial assistance to pay for your tuition. If your school includes the cost of books in its tuition cost, then TA will pay for them. But only a few schools do this.

TA will also pay for certain fees that are associated with specific courses you’re taking. The general rule for determining if TA will cover a specific fee is this:

If the fee is required for the specific course you're taking, TA will pay for it.

Here are examples of which fees TA will cover:

  • Internet or technology fees required for distance learning courses (this does not include home/personal Internet service fees),

  • fees for the lab part of a chemistry, biology, or similar course (chemicals, broken glassware, biological specimens, etc.),

  • studio fees (to pay for models or consumables like paints and clay, and

  • shop fees (for things like wood and broken tools).

TA will not pay for fees that everyone must pay, regardless of which course they're taking or whether the course is a distance-learning or an in-class course.

Do I incur a service obligation if I use TA?

Maybe yes, maybe no.  The answer depends on your status.

If you're enlisted, you don't incur a service obligation when you use TA.  However, before your enlistment expires, you must complete any course you use TA to pay for.

If you're an officer, you incur a service obligation the amount of which depends on whether you're a regular or a Reserve officer.  Regular officers incur a two-year obligation for every course they use TA to pay for.  Reservists incur a four-year obligation.  These obligations begin on the date the course ends.  For more information, see ALCOAST 012/09.

If you're a civilian Coast Guard employee, you're obliged to continue in the Coast Guard's employ one month for every credit TA pays for, after the date the course ends.

In the case of officers or civilians, if you leave the service before you complete your service obligation, you must repay the amount the Coast Guard paid for TA.

Can I use TA and the GI Bill at the same time?

Generally, no.  But if the cost of your tuition is more than TA will pay, and if you are eligible to use certain GI Bill education benefits, you can use a provision called "Top-up" to pay the difference between the amount TA pays and the total cost (see Top-Up).  This only applies to personnel who have either the Chapter 30 Montgomery (Active Duty) or Chapter 33 new (Post-9/11) GI Bill.

Also, you can use GI Bill benefits and TA at the same time as long as you're not using both for the same courses.  For example, let's say you're taking five courses for 15 semester credits.  You can use TA to pay for the tuition and certain fees on courses 1, 2, and 3 and when verifying your enrollment with your school's GI Bill benefits person for only courses 4 and 5 (or vice versa).

Or, if you take multiple courses from different schools, you can use TA for those you take at School "A" and your GI Bill benefits for those you take at School "B".

But I asked the VA if I can use my GI Bill benefits and tuition assistance at the same time and they said “Yes”.  What gives?

The VA is responsible for administering GI Bill education benefits and there’s nothing in the GI Bill statutes which prohibits GI Bill benefits from being used with tuition assistance (TA) at the same time.

But the VA doesn’t have any control over TA. The individual services (including the Coast Guard) own TA. That means they can set rules on when and under what conditions TA can be used. That’s why the five services each have slightly different TA rules. (For two examples, Navy personnel can only use TA for 16 semester credits or 24 quarter credits per year and Coast Guard civilians are authorized to use TA, while civilian employees of the other services are not.)

This being the case, the Coast Guard has decided to restrict its personnel from using TA for the same courses they’re receiving GI Bill education benefits for. The VA can say whatever it wants about using TA and GI Bill benefits at the same time, but the Coast Guard (and other services) have the final word on when, how, and for what TA can be used.

How can I figure out if TA will pay for a course I want to take?

Once you get past the two main criteria, the Coast Guard’s rules for determining whether TA will pay for a given course are admittedly somewhat confusing. Those two main criteria are:

  • the institution offering the course must be regionally or nationally accredited and

  • the credits you earn for the course must be applicable to a degree program.

The usual question after knowing these two criteria is, “You say the course’s credits have to be applicable to a degree program; do I have to be pursuing a degree in that program to take the course?” The short answer is “no”. Here’s an example.

Say you want to take an OUPV (operator of uninspected passenger vessel or 6-pack license) course. Say further that an accredited community college has such a course and that it will let you use the credits earned from that course to satisfy an elective requirement in one of its degree programs. You could use TA to pay for that course, even if you’re not pursuing a degree program.

But be aware that the institution which offers the course (i.e., the one listed on your TA authorization) must be the same institution which provides the grade report (listing a letter grade, not “Pass” or “Fail”) and awards the college credit.

In addition, the Performance, Training, & Education Manual (COMDTINST M1500.10C) lists many other eligibility rules,

If I use TA to pay for the only course I need to complete a bachelor's degree, will TA later pay for courses necessary to get a second bachelor's degree?

TA isn't authorized for "a second degree at the same or lower educational level if the first degree was funded using Coast Guard tuition assistance . . . ."  So, in general, the answer to your question is “no”.  That is, if you used TA to pay for only one course to complete your bachelor’s degree, you can’t use TA to pay for any courses toward another bachelor’s degree.

However, you may request a waiver of this prohibition, using the Institute’s “Application for Tuition Assistance Waiver” form CGI-4147-1,

The rule of thumb is that TA will be approved for the course(s) you want to take toward another degree at the same level as a degree previously paid for (wholly or partially) by TA only if they are directly related to your Coast Guard work.


Do I need to fill out any tuition assistance paperwork before I register for classes?

Not necessarily.  You can register before submitting your TA request.  However, if your school requires payment at the time of registration you'll need to have your TA authorization in hand when you register, which means you'll have to request TA before you register.  (The TA authorization, essentially, is a voucher from the Coast Guard promising to pay your tuition up to the amount listed on it.)

You may submit a request up to three months before the course is scheduled to begin.

If you don't have your authorization with you when you register (or when your school requires payment, if they're not the same), you have to pay for your courses yourself. If you receive your TA authorization and provide it to your school after you've paid the school, it's then the school's option whether to refund your payment. 
TA will not reimburse you for payments made to your school; it is paid directly to the school, not to you.

How long before a course starts do I have to apply for tuition assistance?

You should request TA early enough so that you will receive your authorization before you have to register for your course(s). Since the Institute can't guarantee your request will be processed in a specific amount of time, you should submit your request as early as possible (up to three months before a course begins).  PLAN AHEAD!!!

TA is not a tuition reimbursement program; the money is paid directly to the school. The authorization you receive, after you've submitted your application, is a voucher the school presents to the Coast Guard for payment. You should submit that authorization to the school at the time you pay for your course (usually when you register).

Some schools will accept that the Coast Guard is good for the money, and will let you register without paying. But you’ll need to discuss the situation with the school to see if it’ll work with you.

Some options you can propose to the school are:

  • payment with a credit card, with the promise the school will refund the charge once you’ve provided your TA authorization,

  • execution of a promissory note to the school (saying that if you don’t receive your TA authorization before such-and-such a date (e.g., your final exams), you’ll pay for the course yourself), and

  • your word you’ll provide the TA authorization as soon as you get it.

DON’T register for courses (and pay for them) assuming that the school will refund your money once you submit a TA authorization. Make sure you specifically ask the school if something can be arranged. You don’t want to get stuck paying for courses you expected TA to pay for.

How do I know when my tuition assistance request has been approved?

Once your eTA application has been approved, you’ll receive notification by e-mail from the Navy. To get the authorization (the document you take to your school to pay for your tuition), log on at the same web site you went to to apply for TA and follow this path: My Tuition Assistance (WebTA) > Existing Applications.

Once on the page entitled, "Existing TA Applications Status Description" click on the word "View" next to the application you submitted. A new page will open. Above the dark blue "Application Status History" line on this new page, click on "Print document" to get your authorization.

I just got my tuition assistance authorization, what do I do with it?

First, look at it and make sure all the info there is accurate.

Second, save the attachment to your computer (either the hard drive, a floppy, or flash memory). You can do this by right clicking on the "Print document" link in eTA (see item above) and selecting "Save As". You will tell the computer where to save it and what name to give it.

Next, print it out and sign it.

Finally, take it (or send it or fax it) to your school when you pay for the courses listed on the authorization. Check with your school to find out how it wants you to deliver the authorization. The authorization will show how much the government is paying and how much (if anything) you're required to pay.

What happens if I go to pay for my courses and find out a course on my authorization is full and I can't take it?

If you want to substitute another course for the one you can't take, tell the person behind the desk which course you'd like to take in its place.  If that course is available, ask if s/he can hold it for you while you get a corrected authorization.

If you decide not to substitute another course, ask the person behind the desk if s/he can hold the others for you while you get a corrected authorization.

Make sure the person behind the desk knows you're in the military and will get the corrected authorization within a couple days, at most.  Then e-mail your full-time ESO immediately with the name and number of the course that needs to be removed from the authorization and (if you plan to take a substitute course) that course's number and title.

If the substitute course is for a different number of credits and/or has TA-covered fees associated with it, make sure you provide that info to your ESO as well.

What happens if I don’t finish a course I used tuition assistance to pay for?

If you withdrew from the course (i.e., if you followed your school's official withdrawal/drop procedures), you must let the Coast Guard Institute know so they can cancel the tuition assistance payment to the school. That way, you won’t owe anything. If you don't officially withdraw from a course, you will fail and have to pay the tuition yourself.

If you failed the course, you have to pay back the money the Coast Guard spent on the course.

There are two general exceptions.  If you failed or weren't able to complete the course because

  • Coast Guard duties prevented you from doing so and were not predictable beforehand or

  • you had an unexpected and verifiable personal emergency (e.g., a medical or family situation).

If one of these exceptions applies to you, you can request a waiver of the repayment policy.

Even if you decide not to take a course and haven't submitted your TA authorization to the school, you must still tell the Coast Guard to cancel your authorization. See the TA follow-up  procedures you receive with your TA authorization (or on this web site) for specific info on how to handle your situation.

How do you cancel your authorization?

Tell your ESO that you need to cancel it.  Provide your ESO with the authorization number (located is directly below your signature on the authorization) and your SSN.  Your ESO will advise the Institute that your authorization needs to be cancelled and you’ll be all set.

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Last Modified 5/29/2014
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