NY to Offer Free College to Volunteer First Responders

free college for first responders

More volunteer firefighters and first responders are needed in NY, so much so that lawmakers are trying to attract them by offering free college tuition.

The bill hasn’t passed yet, but if it does, it will provide volunteers with free tuition at the State University of New York (SUNY) as well as community colleges throughout the state.

Volunteers who are eligible for the program must remain active volunteers throughout their academic programs in order to maintain eligibility. They must also keep their grades up, maintaining a grade point average of 2.5 or higher. Eligible first responders include volunteer firefighters, EMS, and auxiliary police working in New York.

The proposed bill can be accessed in its entirety on the New York State Senate’s website.

The number of volunteer first responders in New York has been on the decline for years. And there is a shortage of paid workers, too. According to the state comptroller, the number of EMS workers in New York decreased by more than 17% between 2019 and 2022. This places an even larger burden on volunteers.

Legislators hope the free college program will provide a “win-win” situation for would-be volunteers and the community at large. Critics point out that the program does not cover housing costs or any additional fees beyond tuition.

The State University of New York (SUNY) system includes 64 colleges and universities across the state.

Source: Democrat & Chronicle—NY Bill Would Make SUNY Tuition Free For Volunteer EMS, Firefighters

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