Texas Paramedic Tuition Exemption
What is it?
ATEMSP authored bills HB 3890 & SB 2231, which expand Texas' fire science tuition exemption to include municipal paramedics.
We estimate increased access to higher education to approx 3,000 Texas paramedics.
Why is this beneficial to Texas?
Paramedics are the future of efficient out-of-hospital healthcare. The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services' ET3 payment reform and NHTSA's EMS Agenda 2050 show that paramedics are no longer defined by transport. Instead, paramedics are vital components to preventive care, emergency care, and follow up care within their communities.
Increasing paramedic access to higher education is a cost effective solution that directly impacts community healthcare expenses. Paramedics educated in public health, public administration, and emergency services are more likely to be innovative with problem solving and more efficient with public budgets. Innovation and efficiency are keys to maximizing the paramedic impact in out-of-hospital healthcare. Ultimately, it provides a stronger paramedic for both citizens and public administrators relying on their out-of-hospital expertise.
This measure also addresses Texas' issue with paramedic burnout by providing incentive to be a Texas paramedic provider. Texas paramedics have the highest requirement of entry-level education in public safety, respond to the majority of 911 emergencies, but work for the lowest annual salary. Increased access to higher education retains our experienced providers.
Why fire science tuition exemption?
In Texas, both law enforcement officers and firefighters receive job related tuition exemption to become better public servants. A review of the fire science program found that over 80% of the degree offerings were either medical or administrative in nature. Instead of creating a new program, we are simply asking for a slight expansion of an existing program to include municipal paramedics.
Why municipal paramedics?
Fire science tuition exemption is a municipal program involving public funding and public universities. In a perfect world, all Texas paramedics would have increased access to higher education. Unfortunately, our diverse selection of delivery models make this difficult due to the characteristics of for-profit, nonprofit, and municipal forms of employment. These bills are simply requesting that municipal paramedics gain access to an existing municipal program.
The bills do not cover AEMT or EMT providers. They only cover our highest certified providers within a subset of our EMS community.
Does this negatively impact our colleges and universities?
The short answer: Yes
Expanding the tuition exemption program increases the burden for participating Texas universities and colleges. The key word, however, is participating.
The longer answer is that not all universities and colleges are required to participate. The universities and colleges choose which programs are allowed for tuition exemption and not every college is required to offer the same degree. This is not a blank check for any college degree, it is access to specific, job related programs that may not interest all eligible paramedics. Furthermore, an expansion of 3,000 paramedics creates a minimal impact. The number of paramedics added statewide would still be 25% fewer than eligible personnel employed by the state's largest fire department.
Additionally, the exclusion of non-paramedic providers preserves our JUCO and Community College paramedic programs, who often carry a large burden with the fire science tuition exemption program. These bills intentionally honor the college and university systems while increasing education access to Texas paramedics.
How can I help?
We need people to testify, share stories on social media, email legislators, and - more important - be known. If you'd like to help, email firstname.lastname@example.org.