Air Force Reverses Tuition Assistance, AF COOL Changes for Fiscal 2021

The Department of the Air Force has raised the military tuition assistance cap for Airmen and Space Professionals back to fiscal 2020 levels and restored funding for Air Force Credential Opportunities Online prep courses, it announced Nov. 19.

These changes, which have already taken effect, mean service members can apply for up to $4,500 in departmental military tuition assistance in fiscal 2021, a $750 jump over the original fiscal 2021 limit announced on Sept. 29. Airmen and Space Professionals may also apply for up to $4,500 in departmental funds to pay for AF COOL “boot camps” over the course of their entire careers, the release noted.

“We are excited our members are taking advantage of their time under COVID[-19] to improve themselves and pursue education,” said Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Manpower, Personnel, and Services Lt. Gen. Brian T. Kelly in the release. “The Department of the Air Force was able to reprioritize funding to encourage our service members to maximize their development through these educational benefits.”

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass praised the move in a Facebook post, noting that she’s “encouraged to see Airmen” chasing self-improvement amid the COVID-19 pandemic. She also said “the COOL piece is an even bigger win” than the tuition assistance cap increase, since many Airmen’s workloads make taking college or university courses impossible. 

“Voluntary education and military tuition assistance programs continue to be important to the development of our force,” she added in the release.

In the same release, Chief Master Sgt. Roger A. Towberman, the Space Force’s senior enlisted adviser, expressed his approval of the move.

“I am thankful for great leaders who put service members first,” he said. “I couldn’t be happier to see us enable the best growth, education, and development possible.”

The tuition assistance cap was originally lowered to ensure the department’s tuition assistance dollars could be stretched out in an equitable manner, Air Force Magazine previously reported.