Scholarships Available for In-demand, Life-saving Paramedic Training
January 31, 2024
Ridgewater College is one of several colleges offering Minnesota residents scholarships up to $5,000 per individual to become licensed paramedics, thanks to a $3 million commitment from the 2023 Minnesota Legislature.
Paramedics begin as Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and then advance their skills to become paramedics.
According to the Minnesota Ambulance Association, 800 ambulances with Emergency Medical Services (EMS) workers respond to almost 715,000 service calls across the state each year.
Data from the Minnesota Emergency Medical Regulator Services Board showed in 2021, during the continued peak of the pandemic, that about 4,400 EMS workers (including both EMTs and paramedics) let their certifications expire, contributing to the current shortage.
Ridgewater College Paramedic instructor Cody Aston hopes the temporary scholarship program is a partial solution to meeting the critical need. Aston shared that a Minnesota Emergency Medical Services Task Force was established in 2023 to study the crisis. When comparing data from 2023 and 2022, the number of Minnesota workers who left the EMS field by letting their certifications expire was up 21 percent. In addition, the number of new EMS providers being trained in the state and entering the workforce for the first time is down nearly 26 percent, Aston shared regarding the findings.
These are not positions that communities can live without.
Ridgewater College is dedicated to being part of the solution. Ridgewater offers a 60-credit Paramedic Associate of Applied Science Degree and a 46-credit Paramedic Diploma. Ridgewater’s program is a blended delivery of live, online lectures and in-person skills practice labs on designated Saturdays on the Willmar campus.
“With our accelerated platform, we have been getting interest from students across the state!” explained Ridgewater’s Mary Leyk, dean of Allied Health programs. “This new scholarship program is really exciting because there is such a need in our rural communities.”
According to the Minnesota Office of Higher Education website, the one-time legislative appropriation is expected to award up to 600 scholarships of $5,000 for students enrolled in programs in Fall 2024, with all funds needing to be awarded by June 2026. Eligible scholarship applicants can be new to the program or be current paramedic students. The application period opened on January 1.
Eligibility requirements include:
- Being enrolled at one of the eight Minnesota-eligible paramedic programs, like Ridgewater
- Being considered a Minnesota resident for state financial aid
- Holding a current EMT license
- Planning to work as a paramedic in Minnesota
- Meeting satisfactory academic progress requirements
“Ridgewater’s accelerated Paramedic program offers an opportunity to those currently working to further their career while performing clinicals in their communities,” Aston explained. That has become key during semesters like this one when he has students from as far as Rochester and Grand Marais. “The hybrid program offers an evening online lecture format with 16 Saturday labs over the course of 12 months, with clinical opportunities throughout the state to minimize commutes.
“Though the program year is rigorous, the rewards of diligent and dedicated deeds are worth the devotion of time lasting a lifetime to service the communities in which you live,” Aston added. The program has already expanded its faculty to meet the recent, current, and future demands.
Learn more about the accredited Ridgewater Paramedic program and the scholarships at www.ridgewater.edu/paramedic.
For questions specific to the scholarship, contact the Office of Higher Education at [email protected] or 651-642-0567.