The Meridian Star
LIVINGSTON, Ala.—The University of West Alabama and the Alabama Fire College announced on Monday a partnership that will offer firefighters and emergency medical service personnel college credit for training completed at the Fire College toward a bachelor of science degree in technology from UWA, which is offered both on campus and online.
The agreement signed by UWA President Richard D. Holland and AFC Executive Director Allan Rice is the first of its type in Alabama. It allows students who obtain specialized training from Alabama Fire College in fire services and EMS to transfer 32-42 hours of credit toward an already-existing academic degree in technology at UWA.
The new program, set to launch with registration for the fall semester at UWA on Aug. 16, will provide better opportunities to some 40,000 firefighters and EMS personnel working in Alabama and in east Mississippi. Potential students from high school graduates through experienced fire services personnel, like fire chief, will be able to earn a degree in order to enhance their career path and compensation.
Prior to this partnership, firefighters in Alabama were limited to out-of-state degree programs that were not easily accessible to most, Rice said, and thus firefighters have not received the opportunities that they need and deserve.
“An increase in technology has shifted what has traditionally been a blue-collar field,” Rice explained. “In recent years, the standards have been raised for promotions, and having a degree will help firefighters earn promotions for lieutenant, captain, chief and other leadership roles within the fire service.”
Rice also explained the overall need for academics for firefighter, stressing that firefighting is “no longer limited to putting water on a blaze” and that firefighters have become the all-hazards response service in the U.S.
“From new extinguishing methods, new chemical hazards, and even geo-political issues and response to terrorism issues that didn't exist in our nation 20 years ago, even the rank and file firefighter needs a more robust and profound basis in an academic setting," Rice said.
The degree program is one that UWA is proud to offer, according to Holland. “Students on our campus have looked for a program like this for a long time,” Holland said at the announcement on Monday. “Our affiliation will address a great need in the state, and we are very appreciative of the Alabama Fire College for working with us to offer this opportunity to their students as well as ours.”
Director Rice said that UWA is the puzzle piece that the Fire College had been hoping to find for several years, and based on UWA’s reputation in academics and online education, he thinks UWA is the best fit for the program.
According to Rice, UWA’s distance learning will benefit firefighters with varying shifts because attending traditional classes can be difficult, and the combination of online and on-campus classes will allow firefighters to complete coursework while off duty.
James Todd, a student from Georgia, is currently enrolled in the Fire Officer IV class at the Fire College. He said, “As a station captain, I am considering pursuing a fire science degree to further my academic credentials. In moving up, more education is definitely a plus. The Alabama Fire College offers a great training environment.”
At UWA, the degree is housed in the College of Business. Business Dean Ken Tucker said that an associate and master’s degree are planned as well.
The Alabama Fire College is committed to offering the best and most up-to-date Firefighter, Emergency Medical Technician, and Paramedic training. The dedication of its certified instructors gives the Fire and EMS programs a competitive advantage that few other firefighter training schools in the United States can offer.
Established in 1835, the University of West Alabama in accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and education specialist degrees.
For more information on the degree program offered by UWA and Alabama Fire College, contact UWA Dean of Admissions and Enrollment Management Bill Wagnon at email@example.com or (205) 652-3579.