Burns proposes scholarship program for fire company, ambulance service

Seeking co-sponsors for bill to offset their community service

EBENSBURG, Dec. 13 – Seeking to reward those working the front lines of emergency services, state Rep. Frank Burns, D-Cambria, wants the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency to award scholarships to fire company, ambulance service and rescue squad volunteers.

Burns is seeking co-sponsors for his proposed Volunteer Recruitment Service Scholarship Act, which would authorize PHEAA to award the scholarships to eligible active members of the aforementioned groups.

"We all know about the shortage of volunteers, particularly for fire departments, and this is one practical way to provide an inducement to undertake community service," Burns said. "Many of our smaller communities – where people pay their share of state taxes – can’t afford to pay for these services and thus rely on volunteers. Offering them scholarships through PHEAA is a novel and effective way to keep these services staffed."
Burns said under his upcoming bill, applicants would be required to be a member of a volunteer organization for at least six months and maintain active volunteer status, have graduated from high school or have received a high school equivalency diploma.

They would also have to enroll in a degree-producing curriculum at an institution of higher education within a 50-mile radius of the volunteer organization (or if none exists, the next-closest institution), be a legal resident of the commonwealth, maintain a minimum 2.0 grade-point average, and apply for all federal, state or other education grant aid at the time of enrollment.

Additionally, individual scholarships would be limited to the amount charged by those institutions within the State System of Higher Education, minus any other grant aid received by the applicant.

"Volunteer firefighters, ambulance service volunteers and members of volunteer rescue squads are some of the bravest, most dedicated and valued citizens of our commonwealth," Burns said, "and I believe this legislation will better aid our volunteer organizations in recruiting and maintaining new members."