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Air Force modifies funding for credentialing program

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Department of the Air Force officials recently announced changes to the Air Force Credentialing Opportunities Online, or AF COOL, program.

Air and Space professionals will continue to receive funding for approved credentials, though funding for preparatory classes, boot camps and coursework has been removed.

“The AF COOL program is a very popular program among our enlisted force,” said Hildegard Buan, Air Force chief of Voluntary Education. “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.”

The AF COOL program provides opportunities for enlisted members of the Air Force and Space Force to earn industry recognized professional certifications and licenses to enhance an individual’s active duty specialty, and to help with transition preparations for the civilian job market following active-duty service.

Under AF COOL, uniformed members will receive funding for credentials associated with their primary Air Force specialty code, one credential related to an awarded academic degree, one credential unrelated to their primary AFSC, and a leadership and management credential for E-7s and above. Additionally, the program continues to provide funding for exams and study materials up to $500 per credential goal.

“Boot camp expenditures increased to more than 50% of the program’s budget,” Buan said. “Unfortunately, these increased expenditures couldn’t be sustained, and required us to review and adjust our policies.”

Members can also use GI Bill benefits for preparatory courses if the courses meet Veterans Affairs approval requirements.

Policy adjustments were effective as of July 14, and are outlined in the new Air Force Instruction 36-2670, “Total Force Development, and Air Force Guidance Memorandum 2020-01.”

AFI 36-2670 provides:
Individuals are authorized AF COOL funding for the following:
- Credentials associated with an Airman’s or Space Professional’s primary Air Force specialty code.
- One credential related to an awarded academic degree (bachelor’s degree or higher).
- One credential unrelated to the primary AFSC.
- One leadership and management credential for E-7s and above.
- Airmen and Space Professionals within 180 days of separation or retirement must self-fund their credential costs and will be reimbursed by the AF COOL program after proof of completion. This provision goes into effect Dec. 25.
- AF COOL funding will be recouped if individuals fail to provide proof of completion of the Air Force-funded credential within 120 days.

AFGM 2020-01 provides:
- Preparatory courses, boot camps and coursework will no longer be funded.
- The cost of books is limited to $500 per credential goal.

Currently, more than 1,650 credentials have been approved for funding. According to program officials, individuals can maximize their AF COOL lifetime cap of $4,500 and minimize their out-of-pocket expenses by researching other resources to offset costs. Those resources include: AF E-learning, The Skillport Library and Skillsoft Bootcamp Calendar.

For additional information, individuals should review the new AFI 36-2670, AFGM2020-01, or contact the AF COOL office at ccaf.deao.afcool@us.af.mil.