The University of North Texas at Dallas has been awarded a $192,500 grant from the Texas Higher Education Foundation, the official nonprofit partner of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, to develop and deliver the lone Emergency Services Administration (ESA) bachelor degree program in North Texas. The degree plan will aid the state’s critical first responders in furthering their expertise and careers in public safety.
The ESA degree at UNT Dallas, the only accredited, four-year university in the City of Dallas, and the most affordable university in North Texas, will provide cost-effective access for Texas’ first responders to obtain a degree in their field that otherwise is not widely available at the bachelor’s level.
Representatives from the Texas Higher Education Foundation officially presented the grant to UNT Dallas President Bog Mong during a reception last week on the UNT Dallas campus. Several area fire executives also attended in support of the launch of this unique degree program.
“We are very appreciative of the Texas Higher Education Foundation for funding the launch of this new and exciting degree program that will put affordable bachelor's degrees in the hands of those who work every day serving our public-safety needs,” Mong said. “We are excited to have this opportunity to develop and deliver top-quality, cutting-edge education to our first-responder community in North Texas that will speak directly to their occupational specialization.”
The degree programs for the Texas Affordable Baccalaureate (TAB) Grant Program are an Associate of Applied Sciences in Fire Protection Technology (AAS-FPT), Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and Paramedic Studies, as well as certificates, before matriculating into the BAAS-ESA program at UNT Dallas with the potential of degree completion within three years. Prior to enrolling at UNT Dallas, students will complete their Associate work at El Centro College and other community and technical colleges in Dallas, Denton, Collin, Tarrant and Ellis counties.
These degrees will address the workforce needs of Dallas-Fort Worth and provide unique higher education opportunities to a population of non-traditional adult students who tend to be underrepresented as bachelor’s degree holders.
An initial class of a projected 50 students will begin the program in the fall of 2019. The program calls for an embedded recruiter/advisor working in the field with community partners and first-responder agencies assisting and navigating students into the program, as well as providing programmatic information to interested persons and organizations.
“We are very proud to have and support this new program housed in the Criminal Justice Department as we continue to make public-safety education a true destination here at UNT Dallas,” said Dr. Eric Coleman, program coordinator for Criminal Justice and Project Director for the new ESA degree program. “Our goal with this program will be to support the National Fire Administration strategy 2050 to increase the number of baccalaureate degree holders within the profession, thus increasing the number of degree holders in the first-responder community here in the urban center of North Texas and beyond. Our program will be nationally accredited as we are adopting the recognized curriculum from the U.S. Fire Administration.”
The ESA degree will also serve to address the overarching goal of the state’s higher education strategic plan, 60x30TX, of “at least 60 percent of Texans age 25-34 will have a certificate or degree” in addition to the other goals of completion, marketable skill and reduced student debt.
UNT Dallas ranks No. 1 in the nation for lowest student debt among public universities.
“The Texas Affordable Baccalaureate is a cost-effective option to provide greater socioeconomic mobility for a greater number of Texans,” said Commissioner of Higher Education Raymund Paredes. “The state must continue to innovate and provide cost-effective, high-quality education that meets the needs of an ever-changing global economy while providing greater opportunity and prosperity for Texans.”