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February 23, 2010

NIU, Oakton to offer bachelor’s degree for first responders

Glenview, Ill. — Northern Illinois University officials today announced that starting in June 2010 the university will offer a Bachelor of Science in Applied Management degree with an emphasis in public safety at Oakton Community College in Des Plaines.

The new Bachelor of Science in Applied Management (BSAM) degree, recently approved by the Illinois Board of Higher Education, provides a convenient and affordable way for police officers, firefighters and emergency management personnel to earn an accredited bachelor's degree.

The BSAM degree is designed for professionals with a designated Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree from a community college. All coursework will be completed at Oakton, with general education courses taught by Oakton faculty and degree-specific courses delivered by NIU faculty. The bachelor’s degree will be awarded by NIU.

Bachelor’s degrees for first responders have become increasingly important in light of comprehensive training requirements enacted since September 11, 2001. Many municipalities now require police officers and firefighters to possess a bachelor's degree to be hired or promoted.

NIU is leading a movement in Illinois to create more pathways for community college students to complete four-year degrees, according to NIU President John Peters.

“We’re thrilled to be working with Oakton Community College to offer the Bachelor of Science in Applied Management degree, which is designed to meet the needs of working professionals in our region and provide educational offerings close to work and home,” Peters said. “We look forward to developing additional programs at other area community colleges in the near future.

“The Associate of Applied Science degree held by so many in the emergency response field has not until recently been designed for transfer to a four-year university, so this is really a groundbreaking development we are now able to offer our community college partners,” Peters added. “NIU is taking a leadership position in developing ways for the residents of our region to increase their credentials to meet emerging needs in the economy and better prepare themselves for the future.”

Oakton’s service area covers Chicago’s North Shore and northwest suburbs, including the Northeastern Illinois Public Safety Training Academy (NIPSTA) in Glenview, the site of today’s news conference announcing the new baccalaureate degree completion program.

“This partnership creates tremendous opportunities for an extraordinary number of working adults,” said Margaret Lee, president of Oakton. “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.”

Lee also indicated that in conjunction with the BSAM degree offering, Oakton will immediately implement the First Providers for First Responders Initiative, which will benefit all of the communities served by the College and by NIPSTA.

“The two pathways in this initiative are designed to increase educational attainment and enhance access to critical curricula for Oakton’s public safety partners and NIPSTA members,” she said. “The first pathway will provide three tuition waivers to the chief of each public safety department, who will designate qualified employees to pursue an associate’s degree. The second pathway extends in-district tuition to qualified public safety employees and NIPSTA members who enroll in certificate or degree programs in Fire Science Technology or Law Enforcement.”

NIU and Oakton collaboratively developed the BSAM degree program, with input from NIPSTA. The academy provides training in management and emergency response to fire, police, public works and other public safety personnel throughout the state.

“The degree program complements what we offer at NIPSTA,” said Winnetka Police Chief Joseph De Lopez, immediate past president of the NIPSTA board of directors. “We do training but don’t purport to be educators. This provides the missing piece of the puzzle.”

De Lopez said NIPSTA officials met with Oakton representatives some time ago and gave the college an initial vision for a degree program, emphasizing what was most important to public safety officials.

“We appreciate the willingness of NIU and Oakton to work together and come up with a degree program that is unique,” De Lopez said. “It represents a new way for our public safety personnel to get bachelor’s degrees in a convenient and cost-effective manner. The program also is beneficial to communities that offer tuition-reimbursement programs because it will leverage those dollars.”

Information sessions for those interested in learning more about the BSAM degree program will be held at Oakton Community College in late March and early April. For more information, visit www.bsam.niu.edu, contact Oakton’s Office of College Advancement at (847) 635-1806 or contact NIU BSAM Academic Adviser Colleen Barker at (815) 753-0114 or lynchbarker@niu.edu.

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Media Contact: Tom Parisi, NIU Media Relations and Internal Communications
Phone: (815) 753-3635
Email: tparisi@niu.edu