Case Study: A College Degree Program Designed for Firefighters

It’s always great to hear that our graduates are doing well. And we’re fortunate that they enjoy keeping in touch with us and relaying their success stories. But this one particularly touched me. More than two years ago, I became convinced that many firefighters have the interest and...


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It’s always great to hear that our graduates are doing well. And we’re fortunate that they enjoy keeping in touch with us and relaying their success stories. But this one particularly touched me.

More than two years ago, I became convinced that many firefighters have the interest and ability to complete their degrees. We at Bellevue University started looking for a way to support them.

Because Bellevue University recognizes that learning takes place on the job as well as in the classroom, we began by reviewing firefighter training to see if it could be accredited and could apply to our degree programs. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) national qualifying exam documents learning that takes place during training, so we can apply credit for Firefighter I and II certification. Additionally, we realized that many firefighters have EMT training, and that training is assessed for college credit as well. With these two sources of credit, firefighters can come into our programs with as many as 24 credit hours already accomplished.

Firefighters with associate’s degrees have the ability to transfer their entire degree credits into the bachelor of science accelerated-degree program at Bellevue University, regardless of the associate’s degree major. Many firefighters believe that if the associate’s degree is in firefighting, these credits will apply only to a bachelor’s degree in firefighting. That’s not true at Bellevue University. Associate’s degree credits will transfer into every one of our baccalaureate degree accelerated-degree programs – so firefighters can apply their firefighting associate degrees to bachelor’s degrees in management to prepare for promotions.

It was this type of support that intrigued students like Chief David Foster of the DeKalb County, GA, Fire and Rescue Department and Bellevue University graduate. According to Foster, “Bellevue University awarded credit for my firefighter training. They also allowed me to apply previous college credits to my degree. And Bellevue University was extremely helpful in helping me plan my degree program to take advantage of these credits.”

Bellevue University has a strong history of working with adult students. Our programs and schedules are developed to accommodate them, and our enrollment counselors know our students are busy with work and family obligations, so it’s our job to help them make the most of the time they have available to study.

Financing is often an issue for working adults who are supporting families. That’s why we make sure that inability pay for school is not a stumbling block for our students. According to Foster, “Bellevue University’s Financial Aid Office helped me tremendously, identifying grants and other financing options, plus they walked me through the financial aid paperwork process.”

We’re proud of our students. We know that it’s not easy to study for a degree while working. But the rewards are great. As Foster says so eloquently, “I believe the education provided by Bellevue University has provided me a solid base of knowledge to be successful in my career. I have also developed close friendships with the students in my classes.”


Roberta Mersch is director of enrollment for Bellevue University.

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