College Increases Tuition Assistance for ACEMS Interterm EMT Course
Issue   |   Wed, 11/20/2013 - 01:18
Photo Courtesy of ACEMS
An Amherst College Emergency Medical Services (ACEMS) car responds to an emergency.

On Friday, the Association of Amherst Students (AAS) and the Dean of Students Office agreed to extend tuition assistance for an EMT course held over Interterm. The course, which is organized by Amherst College Emergency Medical Services (ACEMS), saw a surge in demand this year as 44 applicants attempted to sign up.

Prior to Friday’s decision, ACEMS leaders had been uncertain as to whether the College would be covering the full cost of financial aid for the course. Although the class is held over Interterm, it is not currently recognized as an Interterm course; instead, it traditionally receives funding through AAS, which has discretion over club budgets. ACEMS, which provides emergency medical care on campus, is considered a club because it is a student-run organization.

ACEMS Director of Operations Alexander Ordoobadi ’15 explained that the uncertainty over ACEMS’ funding began when the EMT course received an unprecedentedly high enrollment this year.

“We’ve never had that many people apply for the course,” Ordoobadi said.

Last year, 27 people applied for the course, and all of them were accepted. This year, ACEMS had to turn away eight out of 44 applicants, because Massachusetts state law caps enrollment at 36.

“I think becoming an EMT is a pretty cool thing,” Ordoobadi said, speculating about why the EMT course had seen such a spike in applications. He noted that the majority of people who sign up for the EMT course do so because they hope to join ACEMS. Although some students sign up for the EMT course because they hope to have careers in medicine, Ordoobadi stressed that this is not the only reason students consider becoming EMTs.

“You always have a good number of people who are interested in helping people out on campus, and that’s why they want to do it,” Ordoobadi said.

Although there is no one clear reason why interest in the EMT course has increased so dramatically this year, Ordoobadi noted that demand for the course has been rising ever since ACEMS began offering tuition assistance in fall 2011.

This year, part of the ACEMS funding troubles stemmed from the fact that more students requested tuition assistance this year than in years past. Nineteen out of 36 students requested some amount of financial aid, meaning that ACEMS had to request $17,200 from AAS in order to cover these costs. Last year, ACEMS requested $8,650 in tuition assistance from AAS and received $6,900.

“Because it’s at the end of the semester, and our funds are low too, we weren’t able to cover the entire cost,” said Abigail Xu ’15, the AAS Treasurer. “The Budgetary Committee and I tried to fund as much as we can, because we do believe that ACEMS plays a pivotal role on campus in ensuring students’ safety and health.”

The AAS Budgetary Committee agreed to pay $7,000, and they asked ACEMS to speak with College administration in order to fund the rest.

For ACEMS, this decision caused some anxiety. Ordoobadi explained that he and the other ACEMS leaders wanted to be sure that no students would be excluded from the EMT course because they were unable to pay. Without financial aid, the course costs $1,120 per student.

“The reason why we fought so strongly for tuition assistance is that we really didn’t want ACEMS to be made up of only people who could afford to take the EMT class,” Ordoobadi said. “We wanted it to be that anyone in the College had the opportunity to take the class and then join ACEMS. We want the makeup of ACEMS to be representative of the student body.”

Luckily for ACEMS, the Dean of Students Office was able to come through and provide the extra $10,200 so that tuition assistance would be covered for all students. The Dean of Students Office contacted ACEMS last Friday to confirm that it would be able to make this payment.

“The Dean of Students Office has agreed to provide one-time funding to ensure that ACEMS can move forward with its annual EMT course,” said Dean of Students Jim Larimore in an e-mail. “At the same time, ACEMS, the AAS and the Dean’s Office have agreed to work together next term to ensure that ACEMS is in a stable position over the longer term with respect to its funding needs.”

It remains unclear how exactly ACEMS will be able to fund its EMT course in the long term if demand for financial assistance remains the same. However, one potential solution would be to make the EMT course into an official Interterm course, so that it is funded by the College rather than by AAS.

“Moving forward, ACEMS and I would love to engage in conversation with the administration about the steps necessary to make [the course] into an interterm class,” Xu said. “Even though most people who take the EMT class go on to be in ACEMS, that shouldn’t be a reason not to have it as an Interterm class.”

Because Interterm classes are included in students’ tuition, these classes do not charge additional fees. Xu compared the EMT course to a financial accounting course that is currently offered during Interterm. Like the accounting class, the EMT course teaches a useful life skill with broad applications.

AAS, ACEMS and the administration have yet to iron out the details for the course’s future funding, but for now, the 19 students requesting financial aid can rest assured that they will be able to take the class this January. The course, which is managed by Prehospital Emergency Care Educators, will involve about 150 hours of work during the Interterm period. The class aims to prepare students to take exams in order to receive an EMT license, as well as to try out for ACEMS, if they choose. Students who attend ACEMS tryouts must participate in an additional examination, which involves both a written and a practical component.

As discussions over future ACEMS funding continue, members of both AAS and ACEMS have expressed their relief that ACEMS will be able to cover tuition assistance for this year.

“The Budgetary Committee and I are very happy that the administration was supportive of ACEMS,” Xu said. “We’re looking forward to talking with them in the future and seeing how we can provide support — whether that’s financial support or other support — because the work they do is amazing.”