hxdbzxy / Shutterstock.com

New Program Will Give Feds a Break on the Cost of Higher Ed

Partnership between OPM and Vermont college will offer feds and their families up to 70 percent off online tuition rates.

This story has been updated.

Federal employees can pursue college degrees online starting this summer at up to 70 percent off regular tuition rates through a new partnership between the Office of Personnel Management and Champlain College in Burlington, Vt.

The benefit, offered through Champlain College’s online continuing professional studies division, will offer feds, their spouses and adult dependent children access to more than 60 certification, bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in various areas, including cybersecurity, digital forensics, health care administration and human resources management.

There are no eligibility restrictions, but feds and family members “must meet the admissions requirements, apply, and be accepted into the degree or certificate program of interest before they can enroll,” said Sydney Smith-Heimbrock, OPM’s chief learning officer and deputy associate director of strategic workforce planning.  

The summer term begins on July 6, and the admissions deadline is June 5. Interested federal employees can begin submitting their applications now. Champlain College will hold webinars with more information on the program on April 21 at 10 a.m. EDT, and on April 23 at 2 p.m. EDT.

“By partnering with Champlain College, OPM is helping provide access to high-quality educational opportunities that will allow our dedicated federal employees to advance their careers and contribute to their agencies’ mission success,” OPM Director Katherine Archuleta said in a statement.

Employees will be able to make monthly tuition payments—about $250 per month—as opposed to a large payment up front for the semester. The subscription-based pricing model, which determines pricing on the tier an enrollee chooses as opposed to paying by credit hour, allows participants to put their studies on hold for a while if necessary and jump back in when they can, “so they don’t have to go into any debt up front,” said Jayson Boyers, vice president of Champlain College and managing director of the Division of Continuing and Professional Studies. Semesters last seven weeks through the online “truED” program.

Champlain is known for its strong cybersecurity curriculum and is designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education by the National Security Agency, Homeland Security Department and Air Force. The alliance with OPM is the 57th such partnership the college has formed with various institutions, including Cisco and AT&T.

Vermont’s Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy said the alliance between Champlain and OPM “creates a direct path to prepare our federal workforce for the challenges we face today, and the challenges we will face tomorrow. This partnership is both a step forward in helping families to advance their own educational opportunities, and in addressing the nation’s security.”

Boyers said federal workers would be able to obtain bachelor’s or master’s degrees for around $12,000 to $13,000. The online program offers a student/professor ratio of about 20/25 to 1. Enrollees could obtain a certificate through a year-long program for about $3,000, Boyers said.

He said the school listened to federal agencies, including Homeland Security, to identify the skills gaps in the workforce, and tailored its offerings to meet the interests and needs of feds as well as agencies’ mission-critical goals. “We are honored to have the opportunity to align ourselves with the nation’s largest employer and provide the hard-working men and women of the federal workforce and their families with accessible, affordable and relevant learning opportunities,” he said.

In 2014, OPM announced a similar partnership with the University of Maryland University College. Federal workers who live outside of Maryland can receive a 25 percent discount on all undergraduate and most graduate programs offered at the school. Federal workers’ spouses and their legal dependents also are eligible for the reduced rates. The tuition break applies to in-person and online classes.

Since that program launched, according to UMUC’s website, “more than 1,200 federal employees and their family members have taken advantage of more than $765,000 in tuition discounts.”

Correction: The original version of this story misspelled Jayson Boyers's name.

(Image via  / Shutterstock.com)