If you’re a federal employee, you know that sometimes, the only thing standing in the way of advancing to a higher level position with a higher pay grade or step is a college education. Trying to earn a degree the traditional way, in which you have to stick to a rigid schedule of on-campus classes, is difficult when you’ve already got a job you don’t want to leave. Online college courses are a convenient alternative to face-to-face learning for students who are trying to balance getting an education with a full-time day job – especially when that day job is with the United States federal government.

Making College Affordable for Federal Employees

A number of employers – in both the public and the private sector – now offer some form of tuition assistance or reimbursement that can be put toward earning a college degree online in many cases. If you work for the federal government, though, you might be able to get something even better than a (usually small) portion of your educational costs covered by your employer – a deep discount on the total cost of attendance.

One highly-ranked, regionally accredited online college headquartered in New England recently entered a partnership with the federal government that will allow government employees to earn their online degrees for less, the Vermont Public Radio reported.

How much less? According to the school, Champlain College, government employees will pay 70 percent less than the standard tuition rate. Discounts like this put higher education into a new realm of affordability for federal employees and their dependents and spouses. The courses required to earn an academic certificate can cost as little as $3,000, according to Vermont Public Radio, while tuition for bachelor’s or master’s degrees hovers between $12,000 and $13,000.

The Effect of Government-College Partnerships

The partnership between the federal government and Champlain College is actually the second of its kind. Last year, the University of Maryland University College (UMUC) became the first to forge such a partnership with the government. UMUC provides federal employees across the nation with a 25 percent discount on more than 80 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, as well as infusing the curricula with a “public sector perspective” so they can make the most out of their education. The results of this partnership were “encouraging,” the United States Office of Personnel Management reported. Upwards of 1,200 federal employees and their spouses and dependents from 42 states took advantage of the discounted tuition, saving almost $765,000 collectively.

Partnerships between the federal government and schools like Champlain College and the UMUC are win-win situations. As a federal employee and student, you can earn your degree at a fraction of the standard cost. With partnerships like this, the federal government can close the skills gap that keeps current employees out of higher level positions that need to be filled. The schools get the opportunity to educate potentially thousands of additional students who might otherwise never pursue their education.