Starting this June, area police officers, firefighter-paramedics and emergency management personnel can begin to earn a four-year bachelor's degree at Oakton Community College's Des Plaines campus, and get a portion of their tuition waived.
Oakton and Northern Illinois University this week unveiled a new degree program - bachelor of science in applied management with an emphasis in public safety - for first responders.
NIU's applied management degree was accredited by the Illinois Board of Higher Education in August. The program will have two areas of emphasis: public safety management and computer information systems, with additional specialized areas in the works.
NIU inked the same deal with Harper College in Palatine last fall, when Oakton was nearing an agreement to bring the degree to Des Plaines. Harper's program begins in August.
Yet unlike Harper, Oakton will provide tuition waivers to three employees per fire or police department yearly, which equates to 12 credit hours per year through the spring 2012 semester, said Bill Paige, Oakton spokesman.
"This applies to in-district public safety personnel as well as all NIPSTA (Northeastern Illinois Public Safety Training Academy) members," he said.
The Glenview-based academy provides training in management and emergency response to fire, police, public works and other public safety personnel throughout the state.
"The applied baccalaureate degree is both practical and flexible, making it highly appropriate for the thousands of employees trained by NIPSTA to serve our region," Oakton President Margaret Lee said.
The degree program is open to anyone with an associate of applied science degree from any community college, in an NIU-approved specialty area, such as criminal justice, law enforcement, fire science or emergency management, and computer information systems.
Students will complete all course work at the Des Plaines campus. Oakton staff will teach general education courses, while degree-specific courses will be taught by NIU faculty. NIU will ultimately award the degree.
NIU President John Peters said the program is designed for working professionals offering educational opportunities close to work and home.
"We look forward to developing additional programs at other area community colleges in the near future," he said.
Information sessions about the new program will be held at Oakton in late March and early April. For details visit bsam.niu.edu or call Oakton's Office of College Advancement at (847) 635-1806 or NIU BSAM Academic Adviser Colleen Barker at (815) 753-0114.