In the past, there were over a dozen different paths for Sailors to become commissioned officers, Seaman to Admiral being just one of them. This wide array of programs lacked uniformity in benefits, selection procedures, educational opportunities, and program requirements. This created a very confusing web of program applications, deadlines, and choices for fleet applicants and, quite frankly, is very cumbersome for the Navy to manage and administer. Consequently, there were countless Sailors in the fleet who would make outstanding commissioned officers, but due to program restrictions, educational background, or financial concerns, they did not apply.
For all of these reasons and more, the Navy combined most of these current commissioning paths into one consolidated program that preserves the Seaman to Admiral name made popular by Admiral Boorda: Seaman to Admiral-21 (STA-21). The STA-21 Commissioning Program is designed to meet the goals of the Navy in the 21st Century, while at the same time creating a fair and equitable system for outstanding active duty Sailors to receive a top-notch college education and become commissioned officers.
The following fleet commissioning programs were combined to create the STA-21 Program:
What makes the STA-21 Program so different from most of the other commissioning programs is its fairness to the Sailor. Some of the previous enlisted commissioning programs required Sailors to pay their college tuition by themselves. Others removed the student from active duty status, thus taking away any source of income. The STA-21 Program will keep all participants on active duty at their current enlisted pay grade. This means they will receive all the pay, allowances, benefits, and privileges they currently enjoy and will still be eligible for enlisted advancement while in the program: Time spent in school will not count towards retirement, however, it will count towards pay purposes. Sailors will receive up to $10,000 per year to cover tuition, books, and fees. The Sailor will pay any costs above $10,000 per year. Participants attending inexpensive universities that do not require use of the entire $10,000 for any year will not be able to keep the difference.
Although the applicant's history of fleet performance will receive consideration during the selection process, emphasis will be placed on the identification of those applicants who possess the academic and leadership potential necessary to become outstanding Naval officers.