Ridgewater College in Willmar, Hutchinson to offer scholarships for paramedic program


Ridgewater College

will begin a temporary scholarship program for people interested in becoming licensed paramedics. The program, funded by a $3 million grant from the 2023 Minnesota Legislature, will offer scholarships up to $5,000 for Minnesotans to

get their paramedic license.

The program comes in response to a shortage of medical first responders. According to the Minnesota Emergency Medical Regulator Services Board, 4,400 EMS workers' certifications expired during the height of the pandemic in 2021.

The Minnesota Ambulance Association reports that around 800 ambulances with EMS workers respond to around 715,000 calls across Minnesota each year.

"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," said Cody Aston, Ridgewater College paramedic instructor.

The Paramedic Associate of Applied Science Degree and the Paramedic Diploma are offered at Ridgewater College.

"Ridgewater's accelerated paramedic program offers an opportunity to those currently working to further their career while performing clinicals in their communities," Aston said. "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."

Aston sees the program as a way to solve a part of the problem in meeting the current need for emergency medical responders. Ridgewater College has expanded the program to meet current and future demand as more students begin taking the course.

"With our accelerated platform, we have been getting interest from students across the state," said a press release by Mary Leyk, Ridgewater dean of allied health programs. "This new scholarship program is really exciting because there is such a need in our rural communities."

To be eligible, those interested must be enrolled at one of eight Minnesota paramedic programs, be considered a Minnesota resident, hold a current EMT license, plan to work as a paramedic in the state and meet academic progress requirements.

Paramedics begin as EMTs. After receiving further training and certification, they are eligible to become paramedics, which qualifies them to use more advanced procedures in their duties.

Statewide, the scholarship program and others like it are expected to award up to 600 scholarships to enrolled students in fall 2024. All funds must be awarded by June of 2025.

Applications for the program opened on Jan. 1, 2023.