N.H. program offers tuition reimbursement to first responders
The joint program is focused on recruitment, retention and career development for first responders
By Paul Feely
The New Hampshire Union Leader
CONCORD, N.H. — A new program will offer tuition and fee reimbursements to first responders for courses taken at community colleges in New Hampshire, public safety and higher education officials announced Monday.
The First Responder program is a joint effort between the New Hampshire Department of Safety, Community College System of New Hampshire (CCSNH), and the Police Standards and Training Council to support career development, recruitment and retention of law enforcement officers, professional firefighters, and emergency medical technicians in the Granite State.
“This program is an important step in supporting our state’s efforts to recruit and retain a first responder workforce that is critical to every New Hampshire community,” Department of Safety Commissioner Robert L. Quinn said in a statement.
Law enforcement officers and current full-time career, part-time, on-call or volunteer firefighters and emergency medical technicians qualify for reimbursements through the program. The program covers tuition and fees for one course per semester and is subject to eligibility, available funding and successful completion with a grade of C or better.
Participating employees will be certified as eligible by their employers.
“We ask a great deal from our first responders in communities across the state, and they consistently rise to the challenge,” Dr. Mark Rubinstein, Chancellor of the Community College System of New Hampshire, said in a statement. “The Community College System of New Hampshire appreciates the opportunity to partner with the State to support those first responders, who take what they learn in our classrooms and put that knowledge to work in ways that make a difference every day throughout New Hampshire .”
First responders are facing significant staffing and mental health challenges that pose a serious threat to their well-being and the communities they serve, according to a report published in June.
The findings, pulled come from Lexipol Media Group’s annual “What Cops/Firefighters/Paramedics Want” surveys of 9,400 first responders, show nearly half of police officers say their response time to high-priority calls has increased, 53% of EMS professionals say their department doesn’t have enough personnel available to respond to 911 emergency calls in its service area, and 58% of firefighters said their station needed to respond to an increased number of calls outside their area due to staffing challenges.
Only 26% of firefighters and 31% of EMS professionals believe their department has a strong recruitment or retention plan, 55% of police officers say current efforts have not improved recruitment, and 50% of police officers and 54% of EMS professionals plan to leave their jobs in the next five years.
“Investing in rigorous training for our fire, police, and EMS personnel is not just a commitment to safety but a pledge to elevate the quality of life in the Granite State,” Director Justin Cutting of the Department of Safety’s Division of Fire Standards and Training & Emergency Medical Services said in a statement. “Training today, supported by vital funding, shapes the safety and well-being of tomorrow”.
Funding for the First Responder program is included in New Hampshire Senate Bill 153. Sen. David Watters , of District 4 was the primary sponsor of the bill.
” The Legislature strongly supported this legislation in its commitment to providing educational opportunities to ensure New Hampshire continues to have a highly trained and professional first responder workforce to keep our communities safe,” Sen. Watters said in a statement. “It is crucial to make such an educational commitment to promote recruitment and retention.”
John Scippa, director of the New Hampshire Police Standards and Training Council, said the program provides “even greater learning opportunities for all police officers in the state.”
Additional information, including specific programs and courses offered, is available on the Community College System of New Hampshire’s website at https://shorturl.at/kvxC6.