CCAF Turns 40
Community College of the Air Force
by Master Sgt. Michael Voss
Air University Public Affairs
6/28/2012 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Recently the Community College of the Air Force hosted an open house honoring the college's 40th anniversary.
The CCAF concept evolved in the early 1970s as a means of gaining recognition for Air Force training. Led by Lt. Gen. George B. Simler, commander of Air Training Command, Air Force visionaries recognized the need to enhance the skills of noncommissioned officers as technicians, leaders, and citizens. With the approval of General John D. Ryan, Air Force Chief of Staff, CCAF was established 1 April 1972 at Randolph AFB, Texas.
Over the years, the college has come a long way, in both enrollments and recognition. Its first official transcript was mailed 9 November 1972, and the school issued its first Career Education Certificate on 23 August 1973. Today, CCAF is the only school of its kind in the Department of Defense. With 316,000 enrolled students, it is the largest community college in the world. The college issues about 140,000 transcripts per year and has awarded more than 393,000 degrees.
The mid-1970s marked significant strides in the school's history, and many civilian consultants reported CCAF standards exceeded the minimum requirements of civilian associate degree programs. In 1975, the Air Force sought degree-granting authority for the college from Congress and Public Law 94-361 was signed on 14 July 1976.
At the CCAF Administrative Center, a staff of 80 manages degree and certification programs, maintains 2.7 million student records, evaluates and awards credit for more than 1,900 Air Force courses taught in 106 affiliated Air Force schools.
"Few people realize that CCAF is located at Gunter Annex," said Tech Sgt Daniel Potter, a Degree Program Manager. "When DVs come through they are flabbergasted that such a small staff keeps this going."
At the main CCAF campus, 32 Airmen serve as subject matter experts for 68 associate degree programs supporting more than 200 AFSCs. As a testament to the quality of CCAF programs, the college has been regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools since 1980.
As the CCAF staff reflects on this great heritage, they focus on better serving tomorrow's Airmen.
The college launched the highly successful Air University Associate-to-Baccalaureate Cooperative program in June 2007 that links CCAF graduates to online bachelor's degree programs at 46 military-friendly colleges and universities. Airmen can continue to pursue their education and work towards their bachelor's degree even as they move to and from locations around the world while continuing to serve the nation.
The school offers more than associate's degree for enlisted Airmen. CCAF also awards certifications, to include the Professional Managers Certification, the CCAF Instructor Certification, and the Instructional Systems Development Certification.
CCAF benefits those enlisting in the Air Force and it has not gone unnoticed within the Department of Defense.
"Right now the sister services do not have anything like CCAF," explained Chief Master Sgt. James Pepin. "There's an ongoing study to decide the feasibility of starting a Community College of the Armed Forces; however, it is very difficult to do because of the credential requirements needed by the instructors at technical schools."
The Air Force awards credit to Soldiers, Sailor, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who attend or instruct in Air Force schools, and has awarded more than 1,200 degrees to other services' instructors who have taught in CCAF's affiliated schools.
"We try to help the service members who attend or train at our schools. If we have a Soldier who teaches at one of our schools or who attends a CCAF credit-awarding course, they can get college credit that will apply to civilian degree programs."
A recent change in the CCAF program allows Wounded Warriors to complete degree requirements if they have been medically separated or retired. In compliance with a 2012 NDAA legislative change, combat wounded, ill, and injured Airmen who commenced but did not complete a CCAF degree program may continue participation in their degree program for up to 10 years after separation or retirement.
Changed CCAF experience over the years
From CCAF's start 40 years ago, the academic center has experienced a great deal of change and reductions in personnel and financial resources, yet they still enable the Air Force enlisted force to have the best possible military education in the world.
In the beginning, most technical school instructors did not hold degrees, but today each instructor is better qualified and must hold at least a two-year degree.
"Airmen were getting the same technical training, but today their instructor carries a two-year degree minimum," Pepin said.
The degree is a validation of a career of military training at an institution that anticipates awarding its 400,000th associate degree later this year.
"Our forefathers understood our Airmen were receiving this training anyway, but they wanted to ensure the Airmen were getting credit for doing it," said Pepin. "My transcript of training is of equal or more value to me than the diploma hanging on the wall. You are an educated Airmen and a future employer will value that training. Airmen who do not take advantage of the program are missing an opportunity."