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Command Master Chief Dustin Rushing began using Tuition Assistance (TA) in 2010 so that he could work on his education goals without using his own money.
“I took advantage of TA because of the ability to obtain college credits without paying out of pocket and to save my 9/11 GI Bill benefits for my children,” said Rushing. “Even though it took me 12 years to achieve a master’s degree, between operational sea time and shore duty, I am pleased that the journey was completed with minimal to no out of pocket cost.”
Rushing, who has served 21 years in the Navy, believes the process to apply for and use TA is simple.
“The online learning introduction teaches you the whole process,” said Rushing. “I would recommend communicating with your college of choice and developing a degree plan before tackling the TA process. This allows you to have a degree plan readily available to upload for the many classes you will be taking, and it provides you the opportunity to plan out how you will accomplish your goals while at your current command.”
The Navy College Program website offers Sailors a 5-step Voluntary Education (VOLED) Process which can assist with planning educational and career paths. The automated Chatbot helps Sailors navigate the website to find the answers that they need to start using TA or Navy College Program for Afloat College Education (NCPACE).
To apply for TA, Sailors must meet certain eligibility requirements, outlined in NAVADMIN 214/21, and they are required to get command approval prior to starting classes. Eligible Sailors are allocated up to 18 credit hours each fiscal year to pursue off-duty education.
For Rushing, taking college courses and serving full-time as an active-duty Sailor was challenging, but his goals were achievable because he listened to others that had been down the path already, had a solid plan and communicated his plans clearly.
“Communication with the chain of command is key in achieving your college goals,” said Rushing. “I had many mentors along the way that presented courses of action that I did not think about. You will be surprised at the people that want you to succeed.”
In addition to good communication, Rushing offers advice to Sailors in tackling both their education goals and doing their very best to be a standout Sailor.
“The best advice I can give is to know your limitations,” said Rushing. “Sailors have a demanding job and if it were easy, everyone would do it.”
Rushing recommends Sailors focus on their duties first, but at the same time, he encourages them to push hard towards their education goals.
“Be a team player,” said Rushing. “Attack qualifications to support the watch bill, complete maintenance qualifications and work on your respective warfare insignia. Be a productive Sailor and then attack that personal college goal.”
“Your command will appreciate the fact you are supporting the crew by executing your daily duties and responsibilities,” said Rushing. “And when other Sailors witness your success accomplishing your professional and personal goals at the same time, they will emulate your actions.”
Rushing cautions Sailors about putting themselves under too much pressure and accomplishing goals too quickly.
“Do not get tunnel vision and stressed out about achieving a college degree,” said Rushing. “The time will come; I am evidence of that.”
Rushing says accomplishing his education goals has been good for his career in the Navy, and he’s optimistic about his future outside of the Navy once he retires.
“Having a bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership and a master’s degree in strategic leadership provides me with a different perspective when reviewing the command’s mission and vision,” said Rushing. “I think critically how the crew can buy into the command goals using the many resources obtained during my college journey.”
“Additionally, my education, combined with naval leadership experience, sets me up to take on a challenging civilian job opportunity,” said Rushing.
Though it took Rushing many years to accomplish his goal of a master’s degree, it was worth the years of hard work and effort.
“I think one of my proudest moments was when my teenage daughter watched me walk across that stage and get that degree,” said Rushing. “That was a terrific moment for me because I felt like I was setting the example for her. On top of that, I was able to transfer 36 months of my GI Bill to her.”
For eligible Sailors interested in beginning their education journey, there are many ways to get started. Sailors can call the NCVEC via the MyNavy Career Center toll free at 1-833-330-MNCC, Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. Eastern time. To speak directly with a Navy College counselor when calling, select option 3 “Education & Training”, then option 1 “Navy College TA & Counseling.”
Sailors can also go to the Navy College Assistance Center via the Navy College website, https://www.navycollege.navy.mil, and click “Chat Now” to chat online with a Navy College education counselor.
Another option for Sailors is to log in to MyNavy Education and submit an inquiry through the Issue Tracker feature in the top right corner.
As part of the MyNavy HR Force Development team, the Naval Education and Training Professional Development Center (NETPDC) provides products and services that enable and enhance education, training, career development and personnel advancement throughout the Navy. Primary elements of the command include the Voluntary Education Department, the Navy Advancement Center and the Resources Management Department.
Additional information about NETPDC can be found at https://www.netc.navy.mil/NETPDC.
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