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Fire Science and Peace Officer Tuition Exemption Program

     During the 81st Regular Session of the Texas Legislature, House Bill 2013 and House Bill 2347 were adopted. These bills amended Section 54.208 of the Texas Education Code (TEC) to include volunteer firefighters and peace officers holding specific credentials as classes eligible for the tuition and lab fee exemptions outlined in that section.
     The THECB asked institutions to provide a list of programs in Fire Science (as defined by the Attorney General) and law-enforcement or criminal justice. The institutions then determine courses within the identified programs eligible for tuition and fee exemption. The THECB publishes the list of identified programs provided by institutions on the College for All Texans Financial Aid-Exemptions website.


What is the statute and/or bill that authorizes these programs?
FIREFIGHTER EXEMPTION 

Texas Education Code 54.208, as amended by House Bill 2013, passed in 2009.

PEACE OFFICE EXEMPTION 

Texas Education Code 54.208, as amended by House Bill 2013, passed in 2009.

What information needs to be supplied by the institutions to the THECB?
FIREFIGHTER EXEMPTION 

The THECB is responsible for collecting and publishing a list of eligible degree programs as identified by the institution. The institution does not need to submit a list of courses that receive tuition and fee exemption.

PEACE OFFICE EXEMPTION 

The THECB is responsible for collecting and publishing a list of eligible degree programs as identified by the institution. The institution does not need to submit a list of courses that receive tuition and fee exemption.

Has the CB approved rules regarding tuition and fees exemption for Fire Science and Peace Officer programs?

FIREFIGHTER EXEMPTION 

The rules regarding Fire Science programs were intially approved by the Coordinating Board at the July 2009 quarterly board meeting. Revisions were approved at the April 2010 quarterly board meeting.

PEACE OFFICE EXEMPTION 

The Peace Officer rules will be considered at the January 2011 quarterly board meeting.

Is there a deadline in which a student must request the tuition and fee exemption?

FIREFIGHTER EXEMPTION 

Not for Fire Fighters.

PEACE OFFICE EXEMPTION 

The Peace Officer must apply for the exemption at least one week before the last day of the institution's regular registration period for that semester.

Do eligible students in general education, electives or minor courses in an identified program receive tuition and fee exemption?

FIREFIGHTER EXEMPTION 

No. Only courses pertaining to the major requirements of the identified programs are eligible for tuition and fee exemption.

PEACE OFFICE EXEMPTION 

This issue with regard to Peace Officers will be addressed in rules adopted by the Board in January 2011.

Are eligible students in self-supporting courses (e.g. continuing education or extension) given tuition and fee exemption?

FIREFIGHTER EXEMPTION 

No. According to TEC 54.545 (b) and (c), programs authorized in Subchapter D of Chapter 54 of the Education Code (which includes tuition and fee exemption programs) would not apply to courses that do not receive formula funding, or for which the institution does not collect tuition and fees.

PEACE OFFICE EXEMPTION 

No. According to TEC 54.545 (b) and (c), programs authorized in Subchapter D of Chapter 54 of the Education Code (which includes tuition and fee exemption programs) would not apply to courses that do not receive formula funding, or for which the institution does not collect tuition and fees.

Can eligible students in distance education courses receive tuition and fee exemptions?

FIREFIGHTER EXEMPTION 

Yes. As these courses receive formula funding and collect tuition and fees, they are subject to the tuition exemption legislation.

PEACE OFFICE EXEMPTION 

Yes. As these courses receive formula funding and collect tuition and fees, they are subject to the tuition exemption legislation.

Is there a limit to the number of students receiving the tuition and fee exemption?

FIREFIGHTER EXEMPTION 

Not for Fire Fighters.

PEACE OFFICE EXEMPTION 

Yes. The institution may not provide exemptions through the Peace Officer exemption program to more than 20% of the maximum enrollment for that class. (TEC 54.208 (d)).

Who is eligible for the Fire Fighter/Peace Officer tuition and laboratory fee exemption under this legislation?

FIREFIGHTER EXEMPTION 

A person who:

1. Is either:

a) employed as a firefighter by a political subdivision of this state; OR

b) an active member for at least one year of an organized volunteer fire department in Texas, as defined by the fire fighters' pension commissioner, who holds:


i) an Accredited Advanced level of certification, or an equivalent successor certification, under the State Firemen's and Fire Marshals' Association of Texas volunteer certification program; or

ii) Phase V (Firefighter II) certification, or an equivalent successor certification, under the Texas Commission on Fire Protection's voluntary certification program under Section 419.071, Government Code.

2. enrolls as an undergraduate or graduate in a course or courses offered as part of a fire science curriculum

3. if received his/her first exemption under 54.208 in fall 2009 or later, is making satisfactory academic progress toward the student's degree as determined by the institution.

NOTE: This provision does not apply to Fire Fighters who received an exemption through 54.208 prior to fall 2009 as long as they are continuously enrolled in the same certificate or degree program.

PEACE OFFICE EXEMPTION 

1. employed as a Peace Officer by this state or by a political subdivision of Texas;

2. enrolled as an undergraduate in an undergraduate program, including certificate, associate and baccalaureate degrees;

3. enrolled in a criminal justice or law enforcement-related degree program at the institution;

4. making satisfactory academic progress toward the student's degree as determined by the institution;

5. applies for the exemption at least one week before the last date of the institution's regular registration period for the applicable semester or other term;

6. has not previously attempted a number of semester credit hours for courses taken at any Texas public institution of higher education while classified as a resident student for tuition purposes in excess of the maximum number specified in TEC Section 61.0595 (a).

NOTE:  Since rules have not yet been adopted for this program, this list only includes requirements named in House Bill 2347.  Rules are to be adopted in January, 2011.

Is there a definition for the fire science programs and/or courses?

FIREFIGHTER EXEMPTION 

Yes. The Attorney General wrote in the opinion letter dated February 13, 2006: "primarily related to fire service, emergency medicine, emergency management, or public administration, regardless of whether that course falls within a curriculum designated ‘fire science.'"

PEACE OFFICE EXEMPTION 

Not Applicable.

If an undergraduate student is assessed a higher tuition rate because he/she has exceeded the number of semester credit hours for his/her program of student by 30 or more hours, who is responsible for paying his/her increased tuition?

FIREFIGHTER EXEMPTION 

The student. The exemption does not apply to any amount of additional tuition the institution elects to charge a resident undergraduate student under TEC 54.014 (a) or (f) - Tuition for Repeated or Excessive Undergraduate Hours.  The exemption would only cover tuition charges up to the regular resident tuition rate.

PEACE OFFICE EXEMPTION 

A Peace Officer may not receive an exemption for any course if the student has reached the maximum number of hours allowed for formula funding under Texas Education Code 61.059 (30 hours beyond the degree requirement).

If an undergraduate student is assessed a higher tuition rate because of repeated courses, who is responsible for paying his/her increased tuition rate?

FIREFIGHTER EXEMPTION 

The student. The exemption does not apply to any amount of additional tuition the institution elects to charge a resident undergraduate student under TEC 54.014 (a) or (f) - Tuition for Repeated or Excessive Undergraduate Hours.  For undergraduates, the exemption would only cover tuition charges up to the regular resident tuition rate.

PEACE OFFICE EXEMPTION 

This is not addressed in statute.  It will be addressed when rules are adopted in January 2011.

If a doctoral student is assessed a higher tuition rate because he/she has a total of 100 semester credit hours of doctoral work at an institution of higher education, who is responsible for paying his/her increased tuition rate?

FIREFIGHTER EXEMPTION 

The student. The exemption does not apply to any amount of additional tuition the institution elects to charge a resident doctoral student under TEC 61.059(l)(1) or (2) - Appropriations.   The exemption would only cover tuition charges up to the regular resident tuition rate.

PEACE OFFICE EXEMPTION 

Not applicable for Peace Officers.  The Peace Officer Program is only available for undergraduate students.

Will the institution receive reimbursement for the tuition and fees not collected?

FIREFIGHTER EXEMPTION 

No. There are no provisions for reimbursement through the Fire Fighter exemption program.

PEACE OFFICE EXEMPTION 

No. However, the legislation has included a clause addressing funding issues: TEC 54.208 (g) - If the legislature does not specifically appropriate funds to an institution of higher education in an amount sufficient to pay the institution's costs in complying with this section for a semester, the governing board of the institution of higher education shall report to the Senate Finance Committee and the House Appropriations Committee the cost to the institution of complying with this section for that semester.

What charges can the exemption cover?

FIREFIGHTER EXEMPTION 

Tuition and laboratory fees only.

PEACE OFFICE EXEMPTION 

Tuition and laboratory fees only.

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