The Air Force will no longer pay for enlisted airmen to attend preparatory classes, boot camps or coursework through its Air Force Credentialing Opportunities Online program, but will continue to pay for the credential costs themselves.
In a release Monday, the Air Force said that the cuts to the program, known as AF COOL, had to be made to ensure enlisted airmen and space professionals can continue to get funding to obtain professional credentials. The changes went into effect July 14.
Some expenses, particularly paying for boot camps, had become too expensive and had to be cut, the Air Force said.
“The AF COOL program is a very popular program among our enlisted force,” Hildegard Buan, Air Force chief of voluntary education, said in the release. “We wanted to keep this program open for our enlisted members, and in order to do so we had to make some tough decisions on policy changes. The money saved through these adjustments will ensure we can continue to offer more airmen and space professionals the opportunities to earn credentials.”
Buan said that the cost of funding boot camps for airmen had ballooned to more than half of the AF COOL program’s budget.
“Unfortunately, these increased expenditures couldn’t be sustained, and required us to review and adjust our policies,” Buan said.
Beginning Dec. 25, airmen who are within 180 days of separation or retirement will have to pay for their credentials themselves at first, and will then be reimbursed by AF COOL after they’ve proven they have completed the credential.
AF COOL helps cover the cost for airmen to pursue industry-recognized professional credentials and licenses to allow them to do their primary job better, or to help them get a job in the civilian world after leaving active duty, the Air Force said.
The program now allows airmen to receive funding for credentials associated with their primary Air Force specialty code, one credential unrelated to their primary AFSC, one credential related to an awarded academic degree that is at least a bachelor’s degree, and for E-7s and above, a leadership and management credential.
Airmen will still be able to receive funding for exams and study materials, up to $500 per credential goal.
An airman can use GI Bill benefits to help pay for preparatory courses, if the courses meet the approval requirements of the Veterans Affairs Department.
Airmen can be receive up to $4,500 in funding through AF COOL during their lifetime, the Air Force said. They can maximize that lifetime cap, and minimize their out-of-pocket expenses, by looking for other resources to offset those costs, the Air Force said.
Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter at Defense News. He previously reported for Military.com, covering the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare. Before that, he covered U.S. Air Force leadership, personnel and operations for Air Force Times.