AF updates voluntary education programs for FY15

Information courtesy of the Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs Office

WASHINGTON — Active-duty Airmen who want to take advantage of military assistance programs for voluntary education in the coming academic year will experience several changes.

Since Oct. 1, Air Force Credentialing Opportunities Online, or AF COOL, started taking the place of the military tuition assistance, or MilTA, certification program for enlisted and total-force Airmen seeking certifications. Military tuition assistance guidance will be updated.

“Education is what keeps our Airmen and our Air Force at the leading edge of change,” said Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody. “This is a valuable benefit that Airmen have a responsibility to manage, whether it’s keeping their GPA up or meeting all the deadlines for applications.”

Airmen who are currently enrolled in a certification program funded through MilTA will have one year to complete their program. Enlisted Airmen submitting new applications through AF COOL will be able to apply for certifications based on their duty Air Force specialty code, with a lifetime cap of $4,500. Senior NCOs are also eligible for leadership and management credentialing programs within the lifetime cap. Funding for the program is currently scheduled to begin in January 2015. However, the website has been fully functional since Oct. 1.

“We created AF COOL in part to meet FY14 (fiscal year) National Defense Authorization Act requirements but also to separate credentialing from other military tuition assistance and ensure we had a cohesive, user-friendly system for our enlisted Airmen who are interested in obtaining duty-related certifications,” said Russell Frasz, Air Force director of force development.

MilTA will also see some changes in fiscal year 2015, Frasz said. In line with the updated Defense Department instruction on voluntary education released in May, Airmen who receive grades of a C or below in graduate courses and D or below in undergraduate courses will be required to reimburse MilTA funds.

This is effective with all term start dates on or after Oct. 1. If, after six semester hours at the graduate level or 15 semester hours at the undergraduate level, students cannot maintain the requisite GPA, they will no longer be eligible to receive MilTA until they have raised their GPA. In addition, the DOD instruction no longer allows for MilTA to pay for fees.

Eligibility requirements for MilTA will remain the same, except for students with active suspenses such as incompletes or other pending reimbursement actions. These students will be ineligible until those suspensions are closed. Airmen who are approved to receive MilTA may still receive up to $4,500 per fiscal year and a maximum of $250 per semester hour, but will now have a cap of up to 124 semester hours allowed for undergraduate program and 42 semester hours for graduate level courses (some restrictions apply for the undergraduate and graduate caps). This change affects all current and future MilTA users.

The window for MilTA requests will be limited to no earlier than 45 and no later than seven days prior to the start of the academic term. Additionally, Airmen must obtain approval for their educational goals from their academic institution.

All new MilTA users and those who haven’t taken any classes in the past year are required to have face-to-face counseling with an education adviser prior to receiving MilTA, but all students are encouraged to meet with education advisers and review the updated Air Force instruction to ensure they are familiar with all the changes to the program, Frasz said.