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The Student Incentive Payment (SIP) Program

The Maritime Administration's Student Incentive Payment (SIP) Program provides financial assistance to students who enroll in SMA programs to become U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) credentialed Merchant Marine Officers.

How it Works

Qualified students enroll in a full-time, maritime-based bachelor program at any one of the six (6) State Maritime Academies (SMAs): California Maritime AcademyMaine Maritime AcademyMassachusetts Maritime AcademyGreat Lakes Maritime AcademyTexas A&M Maritime Academy, and the State University of New York Maritime College. SIP students (called cadets) receive tuition assistance of up to $32,000 across 4 years, as well as funding to offset the cost of uniforms, books, subsistence, and tuition in exchange for incurring a service obligation.

The Service Obligation

In exchange for financial assistance, all SIP participants incur a service obligation, and upon graduation are required to serve as:

  • Active Duty in one of the U.S. Armed Service branches (years?), or
  • An officer in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or Public Health Service Corps (years?)


  • be employed in the maritime industry for 3 years (preferably sailing on US-Flag vessels);
  • maintain a USCG MMC with license endorsement for 6 years;
  • be active in an U.S. Armed Forces reserve unit for at least 8 years; and
  • report annually their service obligation compliance to MARAD until all service obligation components are fulfilled

The maritime service employment obligation for 3 years may be satisfied in the Merchant Marine as an officer aboard U.S. merchant ships. If afloat employment is not available and with the approval of the Maritime Administration, SIP participants may serve in shoreside or intermodal maritime transportation industry positions.

Maritime Service Compliance System (MSCS)

State Maritime Academy graduates in the SIP Program and graduates of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy are required to report to MARAD annually on the compliance of their service obligation. The preferred reporting method is through the web-based Maritime Service Compliance System (MSCS) at Graduates who are unable to report using MSCS can submit their annual report via email to, or by mail to:

U.S. Maritime Administration
Office of Maritime Labor & Training, Service Compliance Obligation
1200 New Jersey Ave. S.E. (MAR 650)
Washington, D.C. 20590

How Do I Qualify for SIP?

To qualify for the Student Incentice Payment (SIP) Program, applicants:

  • must be a citizen of the United States;
  • be at least 17 years of age and not have passed the twenty-fifth (25th) birthday on the first day of enrollment at the reviewing State Maritime Academy (SMA);
  • apply, be accepted, and enlist as a midshipmen in the U.S. Navy Reserve, Strategic Sealift Officer Program (SSOP);
  • meet the physical and medical standards specified by the USCG and The Department of Defense Medical Examination Review Board;
  • possess a secondary school education (typically a G.E.D.) or equivalent satisfactory for admission to the reviewing SMA;
  • be in good standing with the participating SMA and successfully complete its bachelor degree and naval science curriculum; and
  • successfully obtain a U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC) with license endorsement prior to graduation

How Do I Apply for SIP?

For questions about the SIP Program at a specific State Maritime Academy, or to initiate the SIP application process, contact your chosen SMA directly.


For general questions about the SIP program, contact the Office of Maritime Labor & Training.


Updated: Tuesday, April 21, 2020