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Answers To Frequently Asked Questions About
Education Allowances

Questions:
1. Q - When is an employee eligible to receive education allowances for his/her school age dependents?

2. Q - When an employee first arrives at a foreign post mid-term following an assignment in the U.S., must the education allowance be pro-rated or may the employee draw the full amount published in DSSR 920?

3. Q - I thought the education allowance would cover the full costs of my child’s tuition. Why am I out-of-pocket for education expenses?

4. Q - When a new allowance rate is published in DSSR 920 during a school year, must the amounts be pro-rated to reimburse employees at the higher rate only for expenses incurred after the date the new rate is effective?

5. Q - Can an employee receive the full lump sum payment for his/her child’s education allowance at the beginning of the school year?

6. Q - During a school break while attending a boarding school away from post, may transportation be reimbursed on a cost-constructive basis for a trip to visit a relative at a location other than the post?

7. Q - What expenses are allowable for a child with special needs (DSSR 276.8)?

8. Q - DSSR 276.3 specifically disqualifies an employee from receiving an education allowance on behalf of a child attending school in the United States if a parent resides in the U.S. Is the employee eligible for the allowance when the parent in the U.S. is divorced from the employee parent?

9. Q - Can the education allowance cover funding of a program offered during a 14th year of primary-secondary schooling?

10. Q- The school my child attends requires all students to participate in field trips or excursion programs. Are the costs of these trips payable under the education allowance program?

11. Q - Am I required to send my child to the school on which the education allowance is based?

12. Q - In addition to receiving the "school away-from-post" education allowance, can an employee also receive the supplementary instruction allowance for his/her child?

13. Q - Can a child who attends a "school at post" use the supplementary instruction allowance during the summer while on home leave in the United States?

14. Q - Are evacuated employees eligible for an at post education allowance during an ordered/authorized departure?

15. Q - If I drive my children to school can I be reimbursed POV mileage?

16. Q - At what age can my child start school?

17. Q - I am receiving Separate Maintenance Allowance for my child, can he/she use educational travel?

18. Q - I am receiving Separate Maintenance Allowance for my child, is he/she eligible for the education allowance?

19. Q - Can I switch schools during the year?

20. Q - The post school offers a standardized test that I have never heard of, and I don't know if the results would be meaningful to my child's new school when we return to the U.S. Could I be reimbursed for fees paid to take a standardized test similar to those offered in the U.S.?

21. Q - Not in use.

22. Q - If I have freedom of choice to select a school to send my child, why should I be out of pocket for tuition expenses if I don’t select the base school?

23. Q - I’ve heard reference to the base school quite a bit, but no one can tell me what that means. What exactly is a base school?

24. Q - When using my personally owned vehicle to take my child to and from school, may I claim mileage reimbursement for two round trips?

25 Q - If I’m receiving the Away From Post Education Allowance on behalf of my daughter who is in high school and I exceed the Education Allowance due to transportation costs, may I use the Educational Travel Allowance to help with the transportation cost?

26. Q - My son is attending boarding school in the fall. How much unaccompanied air baggage (UAB) is he authorized?

 

1. Q - When is an employee eligible to receive education allowances for his/her school age dependents?

A - After the employee, or family member, has arrived at the foreign post of assignment, an application [Standard Form (SF-1190) and DSSR 960 Education Allowance worksheet] may be filed including estimates of costs of tuition, books and supplies, required fees, room and board (if applicable), and transportation for an education allowance grant on behalf of each eligible child. Payments, therefore, cannot be processed until the employee, or family member arrives at post. Post management should review DSSR 273, DSSR 276.5, and DSSR 276.6 for additional guidance.

2. Q - When an employee first arrives at a foreign post mid-term following an assignment in the U.S., must the education allowance be pro-rated or may the employee draw the full amount published in DSSR 920?

A. Under normal circumstances, the reimbursement for education allowance is calculated on the date the employee, or family member(s), arrives at post. There are, however, two exceptions to this rule: (1) Under certain circumstances boarding school reimbursement may be made for up to one semester when the employee was awaiting commencement of an assignment to a foreign post without adequate schooling (a higher "away from post" education allowance). The child's attendance from the beginning of the school term must be fairly attributable to the pending assignment to a foreign area without adequate schooling. See DSSR 276.7 for a full discussion of limitations and required documentation. (2) If an employee is delayed by temporary duty prior to arrival at his/her foreign post of assignment, DSSR 276.6 allows payment of the dependent’s tuition to cover the period when the employee was in temporary duty status. Payment can be made only upon the employee’s, or family member’s, arrival at the post of assignment.

3. Q - I thought the education allowance would cover the full costs of my child’s tuition. Why am I out-of-pocket for education expenses?

A - Under 5 USC 5924(4), Congress authorized the education allowance to assist in meeting, but not necessarily to fully cover, the education expenses encountered while serving at a foreign post. The education allowance is intended to cover costs of educational services normally free of charge in U.S. public schools. The employee has the freedom of choice to send his/her children to any school, whether at post or away-from-post. This may cause considerable out-of-pocket expenses when the school of choice is more expensive than the maximum allowance established for the post.

4. Q - When a new allowance rate is published in DSSR 920 during a school year, must the amounts be pro-rated to reimburse employees at the higher rate only for expenses incurred after the date the new rate is effective?

A - No. Grants for a school year may be made up to the maximum amount authorized in section 920 at any time during the school year (DSSR 274.23). There should be no loss to employees due to the delayed processing of the education allowance questionnaire (DS-63). However, it is important that any reported increases in school fees be forwarded to the Office of Allowances (A/OPR/ALS), U.S. Dept of State in sufficient time to allow processing prior to the end of the school year. Increases after the close of the current school year are effective for the next school year only.

5. Q - Can an employee receive the full lump sum payment for his/her child’s education allowance at the beginning of the school year?

A - Such payment is justified only under DSSR 275 when the school requires full payment in advance of enrollment, or when there is a savings to the U.S. government.

6. Q - During a school break while attending a boarding school away from post, may transportation be reimbursed on a cost-constructive basis for a trip to visit a relative at a location other than the post?

A - Transportation may be authorized to an alternative point when travel to the post is infeasible as determined by the authorizing officer. (DSSR 277.2c(1)) Travel may be to the home of a designated relative, family friend, or to join a parent at any location not to exceed the cost of travel between the school and the post.

7. Q - What expenses are allowable for a child with special needs (DSSR 276.8)?

A - A Special Needs Education Allowance is available for children who are covered under Public Law 105-17, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Once eligibility is established by a competent education or medical authority, the same allowable expenses specified under DSSR 277 apply equally to the special needs child unless DSSR 276.8 provides otherwise. To ensure eligibility, parents should work closely with the Department of State's Office of Medical Services Child & Family Program (M/MED/MHS), whose staff support the SNEA, formerly the responsibility of MED's Employee Consultation Service. (Other agency employees should consult their agency's Medical Office.) Eligible children are covered by this special needs allowance from birth to the 21st birthday (but see 276.24 for an exception).

Items allowed must be clearly called for by an established Individual Education Plan (IEP) or Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP) rather than recommended by the school or parent as desirable. In lieu of the post's established at-post or away-from-post education allowance, the post's authorizing officer may authorize reimbursement for allowable expenses up to the maximum rate provided in DSSR 274.12c for the method chosen (currently USD 71,500 for school-at-post plus USD 4,100 for supplementary instruction and USD 89,000 for school away-from-post). Home study costs, including tutoring, may be reimbursed up to USD 57,300 plus 4,100 for supplementary instruction. Medical treatment, including psychiatric care, is not an allowable expense under the allowance. However, periodic diagnostic testing as required by the school or a medical/education authority is allowable. Travel, accompanied by one family member, to the nearest site where this testing can be done is also allowable, per DSSR 276.8.

For students planning to use the school away-from-post allowance, travel from the foreign post to the school for a mandatory interview may be allowable as provided in DSSR 276.8. Expenses itemized in DSSR 277 are allowable, based on the selected method of education (At post, Away from Post or Home Study/Private Instruction). DSSR 276.8c lists additional allowable and non-allowable expenses and services.

In exceptional circumstances, when costs of services provided for in the IEP/IFSP exceed the maximum rate, the head of agency (DSSR 040e) may authorize reimbursement up to an additional fifty percent for allowable expenses on a post-audit basis, as explained in DSSR 276.81. State Department employees must contact M/MED/ECS for approval of additional expenses above the maximum rate.

8. Q - DSSR 276.3 specifically disqualifies an employee from receiving an education allowance on behalf of a child attending school in the United States if a parent resides in the U.S. Is the employee eligible for the allowance when the parent in the U.S. is divorced from the employee parent?

A - An education allowance shall not be paid for a child in the United States who has a natural or adoptive parent or step-parent residing in the U.S. (except where the employee establishes that the parent residing in the U.S. is divested of legal custody of the child, or the parent in the U.S. is mentally or physically unfit to care for the child, or the step-parent is estranged from the employee). It is important that post’s authorizing official is assured that the employee parent has sole custody of the child, and the dependent "normally resides with" the employee (see DSSR 040m for definition of family member) at post during non-school ("vacation") time unless the post excludes non-adult family members from accompanying the employee to the post.

9. Q - Can the education allowance cover funding of a program offered during a 14th year of primary-secondary schooling?

A -No. The education allowance can only cover grades kindergarten through twelve of primary-secondary education, as this is what public schools offer in the United States. However, public schools do offer advanced classes during high school that may lead to eventual college credit for students. Therefore, the education allowance can be used to cover any additional costs for advanced placement (AP) or international baccalaureate (IB) courses taken during the normal thirteen years (K through 12) of primary-secondary education. (See also DSSR 276.9 for supplementary instruction and DSSR 271I for testing reimbursement)

10. Q- The school my child attends requires all students to participate in field trips or excursion programs. Are the costs of these trips payable under the education allowance program?

A - Generally, the answer is no. Even when overnight trips or programs are compulsory and an integral part of the curriculum, they are not reimbursable. In the vast majority of school districts in the United States, costs for overnight trips are borne by parents and not the school district. However, field trips that last less than one day, such as a trip to a local museum or planetarium, and remain within or near the confines of the local metropolitan area, are reimbursable up to the maximum amount of the education allowance. 

11. Q - Am I required to send my child to the school on which the education allowance is based?

A - No. Employees have total freedom of choice to send their children to any school, whether at post or away (DoD civilians should review Civilian Personnel Manual 1400.25-M for additional guidance). However, if the school the child attends is more expensive than the maximum allowance, the parent is responsible for the extra expenses incurred. The allowance is not to be paid for children attending school in the U.S. when there is either another parent (unless divested of custody) or a legal guardian residing in the U.S.

12. Q - In addition to receiving the "school away-from-post" education allowance, can an employee also receive the supplementary instruction allowance for his/her child?

A. No. The supplementary instruction allowance may only be used in conjunction with the "school at post" education allowance. This allowance is intended to supplement the education provided by the school at post. When an employee is receiving the away-from-post education allowance, it is the parent's responsibility to select a school that will provide the necessary education for the child. Post management should review DSSR 276.9 for guidance on authorizing the supplementary instruction allowance.

13. Q - Can a child who attends a "school at post" use the supplementary instruction allowance during the summer while on home leave in the United States?

A.- Normally, the supplementary instruction allowance may only be used at a foreign post to supplement the education received at the school at post during the regular school year. However, under limited circumstances, and with permission of the Director of the Office of Allowances, the allowance may be used during the summer months. Circumstances during which summer school may be reimbursable include when the school at post on which the education allowance is based does not offer a course normally provided free of charge in a US public school and required for graduation, such as US History or US Government and the child's schedule during the school year does not allow time for additional instruction during the school year. Please direct requests for authorization to the Director of the Office of Allowances at AllowancesO@state.gov.

14. Q - Are evacuated employees eligible for an at post education allowance during an ordered/authorized departure?

A - Normally education allowances are not payable on behalf of children evacuated from a post in a foreign area to safehaven in the United States if accompanied by a parent, as public schools are available to all residents in the United States. If, however, there is an internet classroom set up with the school at post, expenses incurred by the employee/parent at the safehaven location associated with the internet classroom the child is participating in may be reimbursed under the current year "school at post" education allowance maximum. [DSSR 621.1(d) and DSSR 621.2(d)

If prior to evacuation, a child was attending school in the United States using the away-from-post education allowance, the rate authorized for the evacuated post may continue for the remainder of the school year (DSSR 633.2). The safehaven displaces the post of assignment for travel under both away-from-post education allowance and educational travel for students not allowed to return to post.

When an employee requests, and is granted an alternate foreign location as safehaven, no education allowance is authorized (DSSR 633.3). Although a rare situation, if a foreign area is designated as an official (not alternate) safehaven, education allowances are provided according to DSSR 633.1.

15. Q - If I drive my children to school can I be reimbursed POV mileage?

A: For a school at post, where school-, commercially-, or USG-provided transportation is not available and a private car or carpool is used, the cost of such transportation may be reimbursed at the authorized cents per mile rate (equivalent to the current GSA-approved rate for the use of a privately owned vehicle (POV) for official business) for one round trip per day between school and home.

16. Q - At what age can my child start school?

A - "Kindergarten", except for a special needs child, means a one school-year program similar to the U.S. public school program immediately preceding grade 1 and does not include the nursery school level. At posts where schools generally follow a U.S school calendar (i.e. school year begins in August or September) the child needs to turn five on or before December 31 of that school year. At posts where schools follow another hemisphere calendar, (i.e. school year begins in January or February) a child needs to be at least four years and eight months old by the beginning of the school year. (See exception at DSSR 276.25).

17. Q - I am receiving Separate Maintenance Allowance for my child, can he/she use educational travel?

A - No. Per DSSR 261.2, "An employee who is receiving SMA on behalf of a member of family is not eligible for other allowances or benefits under these [DSSR] regulations on behalf of that member of family except as provided under DSSR 242.7, 252.8, 262.5 and 267.2. Educational Travel is not one of the exceptions.

18. Q - I am receiving Separate Maintenance Allowance for my child, is he/she eligible for the education allowance?

A - For Involuntary SMA ("for the convenience of the Government") per DSSR 276.42, "When a foreign post is designated as the official Involuntary SMA location, the employee may be eligible for an education allowance on behalf of a child residing at that location. DSSR 262.5 further states that "the employee can be authorized an education allowance within the applicable 'school at post' education allowance established in these regulations [DSSR 920] for the officially authorized foreign ISMA location on behalf of a child authorized to reside at that ISMA location, unless the child has arrived at a selected educational institution under educational travel authority within the last 12 months".

For Voluntary SMA ("for the convenience of the employee") per DSSR 262.2, "Unless specifically designated otherwise by the head of agency, eligible family members on VSMA are considered to be officially residing in the U.S.". If officially residing in the U.S., children can go to public school free of charge. Remember, the intent of an education allowance is to help cover costs normally provided free of charge in U.S. public schools. Therefore, an education allowance is not warranted when officially residing in the U.S. on SMA.

19. Q - Can I switch schools during the year?

A - DSSR 272.3 states that an employee has freedom of choice in school selection with reimbursement up to the rate cited in DSSR 920 for allowable expenses (DSSR 277). However, there is a restriction on the "at post" education allowance. If an employee chooses a school other than the base school on which the education allowance is calculated, reimbursement for one-time fees under DSSR 274.12e is limited to an amount not to exceed the total of all one-time fees charged by the base school. If one-time fees exceed those of the base school, additional one-time fees may be reimbursed against the DSSR 920 education allowance rate as long as that maximum rate has not been reached. (See examples at DSSR 272.3). In cases in which a student is required to transfer schools for reasons beyond the family's control, the post may request a waiver of the maximum rate from the Director, Office of Allowances, U.S. Department of State.

20. Q - The post school offers a standardized test that I have never heard of, and I don't know if the results would be meaningful to my child's new school when we return to the U.S. Could I be reimbursed for fees paid to take a standardized test similar to those offered in the U.S.?

A - The regulations allow for certain test fees to be reimbursed outside the amount of the education allowance when those tests are normally administered in U.S. public schools without charge to the parents. This includes some standardized tests provided by the school at post, and those normally provided free of charge by U.S. public schools, but not normally administered by the school at post. The Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) test fees are the specific examples cited in DSSR 271i. Other fees for tests may be reimbursable if offered free of charge by U.S. public schools. Because the types of tests offered free of charge by U.S. public schools can change, please check with the Office of Allowances, Department of State, to confirm whether a fee other than AP or IB testing can be reimbursed. Fees for SATs or other exams for the purpose of admittance to post-secondary schooling are not normally provided free of charge by U.S. public schools and are, therefore, not considered reimbursable.

21. Q - Not in use.

A. Not in use.

22. Q - If I have freedom of choice to select a school to send my child, why should I be out of pocket for tuition expenses if I don’t select the base school?

A. While you have freedom of choice of school selection, the Education Allowance is based on the least expensive adequate school available to the majority of U.S.G. dependents. When a school other than the base school is selected, there is a chance that parents may incur out of pocket expenses.

23. Q - I’ve heard reference to the base school quite a bit, but no one can tell me what that means. What exactly is a base school?

A. Per DSSR 271n (definitions) A "base school at post" is usually the least expensive "adequate" school as determined by the Department of State, Office of Overseas Schools or the U.S. Department of Defense School, where available to eligible family members. The base school is used to establish the maximum “at post” education allowance for grades K-12. With the exception of the U.S. Department of Defense Schools in foreign locations, the U.S. Department of State's Office of Overseas Schools determines adequacy by how closely a foreign post/location school curriculum aligns with the U.S. public school curriculum so that a child can transition to the next higher grade in a U.S. public school.

24. Q - When using my personally owned vehicle to take my child to and from school, may I claim mileage reimbursement for two round trips?

A. No. Per DSSR 277.1f, reimbursement may only be made for one round trip per day between school and home. The law only permits reimbursement for those “educational services as are ordinarily provided without charge by public schools in the U.S. Public schools in the U.S. provide transportation for the child to go to school and for the child to come home from school (one round trip).

25 Q - If I’m receiving the Away From Post Education Allowance on behalf of my daughter who is in high school and I exceed the Education Allowance due to transportation costs, may I use the Educational Travel Allowance to help with the transportation cost?

A. The Education Allowance and Educational Travel cannot be combined. You may either choose the Education Allowance under DSSR 270 or Educational Travel under DSSR 280; you cannot receive both at the same time.

26. Q: My son is attending boarding school in the fall. How much unaccompanied air baggage (UAB) is he authorized?

A: The law was changed and subsequently the DSSR (effective July 22, 2007) to allow shipment of UAB as an allowable expenses under the "away from post" education allowance rate established for the post.  DSSR 277.2c(3) authorizes expenses for transportation of UAB annually under the "away from post" education allowance, but does not specify a weight limit.  Employees of the foreign affairs agencies may currently transport up to 250 pounds of their children's belongings as UAB (14 FAM 613.3-1). Employees of non-foreign affairs agencies should contact their agency's personnel office for information regarding UAB.