HR: Training and Tuition Reimbursement

Training Opportunities

Subject to the availability of funds and with prior approval by the employee's supervisor, training opportunities for Federal and Trust employees are available for job and career related goals. Training must be related to an employee's official duties at SAO. The Smithsonian will pay for training and related expenses that have been authorized in advance and in writing by the appropriate official. Any costs incurred by the employee, which were not specified on the approved training authorization request, will be the employee's responsibility.

Training may be obtained during duty hours through courses, workshops, seminars, conferences, on-the-job training sessions, or special assignments through planned, structured and coordinated programs of instruciton. Training may also be obtained online.

Sources of training could include instructional programs given by:

  • Smithsonian Institution
  • U.S. Office of Personnel Management
  • General Services Administration (GSA)
  • USDA Graduate School
  • Accredited colleges and universities
  • Private organizations or vendors

Follow the approval process as stated below; however, the employee should not register or pay the cost for the training course. Registration is done by SAO's Procurement Department only after Financial Management Department review and approval, as payment is made to the training vendor by SAO, usually in advance. At the conclusion of the course, the employee must forward the certificate of course completion to the SAO Benefits Office (MS17). All approved training will be recorded in HRMS and reported to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

Tuition Reimbursement

SAO encourages eligible employees to improve their skills to attain career goals through continuing education. All Trust Fund employees holding indefinite appointments and all Federal employees holding career, career conditional, or term appointments are eligible for tuition reimbursement benefits for courses taken outside the employee's regularly scheduled tour of duty at an accredited college or university. Part-time employees are eligible for prorated benefits.Employees holding temporary or intermittent appointments are not eligible for tuition assistance. Employees must complete the course satisfactorily to obtain reimbursement.

The purpose of the Tuition Assistance Program is to develop and enhance employees' value to the organization. Eligible employees may take courses at accredited educational institutions that may improve individual and organizational performance, and assist in achieving the agency's mission and performance goals. Courses submitted for approval must be relevant to the employee's job duties and/or career potential at SAO. Written justification to show how the course is job-related is required. Financial support will not be provided when the funds are to be used solely for the purpose of helping an employee achieve a college degree.

Subject to availability of funds and prior approval, SAO will reimburse to the employee 100% of the tuition, registration fees, lab fees, and required course materials, up to a maximum of four semester courses or six trimester courses per calendar year (not to exceed two courses per semester or trimester). It is the employee's responsibility to obtain approvals in sufficient time to meet registration deadlines. Late registration fees will not be reimbursed.

It is important to note that cancellations of authorized training or tuition assistance must be sent to the employee's supervisor and the SAO Benefits Office to advise that the request and approval should be cancelled as soon as the decision is made to cancel attendance.

A reimbursement request must be submitted to the SAO Benefits Office upon satisfactory completion of the course. Along with a completed reimbursement request form, which will be provided to the employee upon approval of the course, the employee will need to attach the grade, proof of payment of tuition, fees, and required books and materials, as well as the course syllabus specifying the required texts, etc. When purchasing course materials, present a copy of SAO's tax exempt status form. SAO will not reimburse for sales taxes paid. Upon review and approval by the SAO Benefits Office, the request for reimbursement will be presented to the Financial Management Department for reimbursement via EFT.

Charges for Trust Fund or Federal tuition reimbursement are made to the appropriate overhead or federal pool for courses taken outside of the regularly scheduled tour of duty. Reimbursement for required course materials will be paid from the same source as the tuition funding.

Special TAP Courses for SAO Employees

Eligible employees may enroll in special tuition assistance program (TAP) courses taken during duty hours through a special arrangement between SAO and Harvard University's Faculty of Arts and Sciences. SAO employees receive a 50% discount on the tuition. Such courses must be approved in advance by the employee's supervisor, the Harvard professor, and SAO's training officer. For detailed information, please contact the SAO Benefits Office (617-495-7371).

Approval Procedure

  • Complete the form, "Request and Authorization fo External Training/Tuition Reimbursement". Be sure to include the estimated cost for registration fees, required textbooks and/or other required course materials in addition to the cost of tuition and the appropriate accounting fund number for the employee's division/department.
  • Obtain required approvals from immediate supervisor and funds approval officer. Additional steps are required for TAP courses.
  • Include documentation of course content, course schedule, job-relatedness justification, and the cost of the course. Any request forms that are not completed properly or that lack appropriate approvals or backup will be returned to the employee for completion and resubmission.
  • Send packet to the SAO Benefits Office at MS17.

The approval process for tuition reimbursement requests must be completed prior to course registration. Training/tuition request forms should be submitted to the SAO Benefits Office at least two to three weeks prior to the course's scheduled start date. The employee will be sent notification when the training/tuition request is approved.

Additional Information

Questions on this procedure should be addressed to the SAO Benefits Office at (617) 495-7371.

(rev. 2/2013)

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