By Rene Howard-Paez
They carry people out of buildings, put out large fires, investigate arson, and now some of them are going back to school. Berwyn firefighters are taking college courses to get advanced degrees in fire science or fire service management.
This past year the Fire Department asked for $47,600 in the city budget to cover tuition reimbursement.
This is just over three times the amount that was requested the previous year.
According to Berwyn Fire Chief Denis O’Halloran, four more firefighters are attending school this year.
“Firefighters have the opportunity to go back to school to earn advanced degrees,” O’Hallaran said.
Advanced degrees in fire science and fire service management are offered at various local colleges and universities including Triton College, Moraine Valley Community College, College of DuPage, Lewis University and Morton College.
The Berwyn firefighters are going to various schools to take advantage of the reimbursement opportunity.
“Our guys are at Benedictine University, College of DuPage and Moriane Valle Community College,” said O’Hallaran.
Any union firefighter has the opportunity to go back to school, but the degree has to be relevant to the job. “The city offers to reimburse tuition in order to obtain a advanced degree, as long as it is in the realm of their job.” O’Hallaran said.
These advanced degrees must come from an accredited college also.
The city of Berwyn provides reimbursement not only for the specific courses, but for the whole curriculum, allowing the firefighter to get a full rounded degree.
Alderman Nona Chapman of the 1st Ward believes that the firefighters are using the money the best they can.
“I think it is being well used, they are going back to school for fire related degrees,” she said.
Chapman, who is also the budget chairman, also commented that the fire department was very convincing in their request for this extra money.
“It is helping the city, they are also using the money to get in house training from paramedics and such,” Chapman continued.
It is unknown how much money the fire department has requested for tuition reiumbursment for the next budget.