Tapping into Army Tuition Reimbursement: Cha-Ching!

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    On to the MSN ... it had to happen.

    During the process of orienting to the post, we had a presentation at the Army Education Center about using our Tuition Assistance (TA) dollars. I listened with interest because I knew I wanted to get started on my MSN as soon as I could. I learned that the Army has a website, GoArmyEd.com, that service members can access for tuition information, requesting access to TA, finding information about schools, etc. I asked my CNOIC about the process of getting access to my tuition dollars, but he wasn't sure; I told him I'd blaze the path and get back to him. For some reason I had it in my head that I couldn't access my tuition dollars for a couple of years after commissioning, but that's not true. I think if a person is going to apply to go to school full-time as an active duty member, that is when you have to wait a couple of years, but I don't know that for sure. Anyway, I created my account on GoArmyEd.com and started looking at the website for guidance.

    I was pleased to find out that I was eligible for $4,500 in reimbursement per fiscal year. Jackpot! I also discovered that GoArmyEd has relationships with many schools -- designated as eArmyU institutions -- that make it easy to take classes; a soldier student enrolls in classes through the GoArmyEd website, and the Army pays the money directly to the soldier's chosen school. Soldiers cannot receive TA for the same or a lower educational level than a degree they currently hold (e.g., I cannot get TA to complete another Bachelors degree because I already have one). TA is also not authorized for programs beyond a Masters degree.

    Soldier students also have to complete a Tuition Assistance Statement of Understanding (TA SOU) every year. For soldiers with rank E-6 and below, their commanders must also sign the form. For E-7s and above and officers, we may sign our own form. This form must be re-signed and re-uploaded or submitted annually, and soldiers will receive email reminders 90 days prior to the TA SOU due date. One thing that the Education Center speaker stressed to us during our information session was that, without the renewed TA SOU, students will NOT receive their TA funding, and class requests will be denied. Basically, the TA SOU ensures that students are aware of their obligations in return for the TA dollars. For every class we take for which we receive TA dollars, active duty folks incur another two year of Active Duty Service Obligation (ADSO) from the end point of that class. So for example, if my last class were to finish in January 2013, I would have to remain in the Army until January 2015, or I'd owe Uncle Sam a pro-rated refund. At the time of initially applying for TA dollars, soldiers must have at least two years of time remaining on their currently duty obligation in order to receive TA funding, something I discovered because I was mis-coded in a database and it was showing I had less than two years remaining. Because I've only been in about 7 months of my initial 4 years of active obligation, I knew that wasn't correct!

    First I looked for an MSN program. I decided I'd pursue an MSN with an education focus. There are many schools that participate in the eArmyU program, and I noticed that Excelsior College was one of them. I knew that their per-credit-hour price for active duty military grad students was purposefully right at the maximum that the Army will cover, $250 per credit hour, meaning the only money out of my pocket for each class would be spent on books and not on bridging a gap in tuition coverage. The Army didn't cover the application or enrollment fees, but those were relatively inexpensive. I attended Excelsior's ADN program, so I knew they'd have the transcripts already for three of my four degrees. I was also familiar with their class software, policies, and procedures, so it was an easy choice to go back to my "RN roots" for my MSN. I had my BSN transcripts sent, applied to the MSN program, and was accepted and all set within a couple of weeks. I have to take a total of 11 classes or 39 credits for the MSN, which comes out to $9,750 ... a veritable bargain at active duty pricing!

    Once I picked my "home" school and degree program, I applied for my TA using the GoArmyEd common application. I had to write a brief paragraph detailing which degree I was seeking to pursue, which school I wanted to attend, and why I wanted to pursue this degree. Easy enough. My TA dollars were approved in less than a week.

    For schools that are part of the eArmyU system, you cannot enroll for classes directly with the college if you want to use TA dollars to pay for tuition; enrollment is done through the GoArmyEd website. Also, soldier students are required to have a Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges Army Degree (SOCAD) Student Agreement (SA) or documented degree plan uploaded to the GoArmyEd Student Record prior to the end of the second class at one's home college, or after taking 6 credits through GoArmyEd. I immediately requested Excelsior upload my SOCAD SA/Degree Plan, and that was done pretty quickly.

    GoArmyEd has an easy online enrollment application that runs on the PeopleSoft platform. The site will also indicate if a class is not automatically approved for TA dollars, and it will warn you in huge red letters if something isn't covered by TA. One of my MSN requirements is a graduate-level elective, and because the class I chose isn't part of the nursing series, I had to first submit a help desk ticket with details and justification to request an exception. I have to commend the GoArmyEd help desk -- they are easily the most responsive and speedy help desk I have ever had to bother! I submitted my request for enrollment exception and had it granted the very next day. Too easy!

    I am currently entering week 13 of 15 in my first class, NUR 502: Theoretical Foundations of Nursing Practice, which started in early September. I started MLS 667: Cultural Diversity in the Workplace at the beginning of November, and it's just an 8-week class (the only one in my entire degree plan that isn't 15 weeks long). I'm finding that having a bit of overlap in which I'm in two courses at one time isn't too much of a hardship, as long as I don't procrastinate! Books are running about $100 per class, give or take; I buy them used for less, of course! The Army has picked up the remainder of the tab, and I've registered for NUR 512: Professional Role Development and Ethics, which starts the first week of January. I intend to register in January for another class that starts in March, NUR 531: Health Care Delivery Systems: Political, Social, and Economic Influences, resulting in a little two-class overlap again. Hopefully it won't be too much with my other collateral duties as they're shaping up, but I think I can manage. I did always like to stay busy.
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    About Pixie.RN, MSN, RN, EMT-P Senior Moderator

    LunahRN: a short green-eyed redhead, very tattooed, a volunteer Paramedic, ER RN, new-ish 1LT/66HM5. Avid reader, addicted to good shoes, allnurses, and her smartphone.

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  3. by   VivaLasViejas
    Wow, Lunah---I am totally impressed with and proud of you!!
  4. by   Pixie.RN
    Thanks!! You know me, I just jump in with both feet...
  5. by   deftonez188
    I'm entering the Navy early this next year and planned to do as you state here and begin using my TA right away (I used it before when enlisted). I'm sad to hear that it can't be used for a same level degree - I really wanted to have Uncle Sam buy me a nice Philosophy bachelors .
  6. by   Pixie.RN
    Quote from deftonez188
    I'm entering the Navy early this next year and planned to do as you state here and begin using my TA right away (I used it before when enlisted). I'm sad to hear that it can't be used for a same level degree - I really wanted to have Uncle Sam buy me a nice Philosophy bachelors .
    That's for the Army, though -- it could possibly be different for Navy! Not sure. Maybe a nice Philosophy masters, then?
  7. by   Pixie.RN
    Sigh. Here's hoping that TA comes back ... has anyone heard any updates?
  8. by   athena55
    Hey Lunah:
    Nope....sigh.....nothing yet. I am like you, always doing "something" so my not being in class this semester really rots my socks. We have to wait for the powers-that-be on the Army side of the house to bring it back (Obama et al did the right thing and found $$ - at least for this fiscal year)
    I go to goarmyed every so often....keeping my fingers crossed.....
    Hey, good luck with the CPT Boards. I was below the zone (BZ) for the MAJ Boards but...being in Afghanistan and my S1 not helpfull at all.....everything will be squared away by the Boards being held this AUG....
    Stay Safe kiddo,
  9. by   athena55
    Army has reinstituted TA! As of midnight 10 APR 2013....
  10. by   traumaRUs
    Totally cool Athena - I was coming here to post the same thing...my husband is JROTC instructor and Army recruiters came to his classroom yest and gave the new recruits the good news....
  11. by   Pixie.RN
    WOO HOOOO!! Thought I'm getting set to deploy in June, so I'm going to take a break from school for a bit while there -- not sure how reliably I can "attend" my online classes from there, haha.
  12. by   athena55
    Totally doable (going to school while deployed) IF you have access to a computer/Internet and even better if you have an Education Center at your FOB
    They were building a new one at Leatherneck and there was one at KAF.
    Also totally doable depending upon what your tasker is....This last deployment I was a trauma nurse coordinator and I did have time (after working 14 hour nights) to finish out the semester.
    While observing OPSEC, where are you going? FST? CSH? Role 3?
  13. by   Pixie.RN
    Quote from athena55
    While observing OPSEC, where are you going? FST? CSH? Role 3?
    FST! So excited. PROFIS 66HM5.
  14. by   teddy4987
    I have a question:

    I know as officers we have a 2-year ADSO for using tuition assistance. However, I cannot find it written anywhere if the ADSO is concurrent or consecutive! Do you have any idea?

    Also, will the Tuition Assistance ADSO delay entry into LTHET? I just wanted to use TA to take a couple of pre-req classes.

    Of course I only think of these questions on a Saturday night when everything is closed!