Guest Columnist Brittney Moore
Assisted by Former Fellow Mallory White
Carrie*, a mother of three and resident of Fort Morgan, Colorado, wanted to become a nurse. So, she began her educational journey at Morgan Community College (MCC), located in the northeast corner of Colorado. She quickly realized, however, that in order to finance her education, she would have to take out a significant amount of student loans. As a mother of three children, providing for her family was still a priority and accruing debt greatly worried her. Fortunately, Carrie qualified for a scholarship that was funded by El Pomar Foundation’s Northeast Regional Council and was distributed through MCC’s nursing school. Carrie’s future as a nursing student suddenly seemed more affordable and attainable.
In 2009, the Northeast Regional Council chose to focus its grant recommendations on the retention of healthcare professionals in the region. In an effort to attract and retain nursing professionals, the council granted a total of $25,000, or $12,500 each, to Morgan Community College (MCC) and the Northeastern Junior College (NJC) in support of their nursing programs.
Each college committed $5,000 of the funds to support Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) certification classes, which are two or three week courses that provide a pathway for many people to begin nursing work in assisted living arrangements, nursing homes, and in some hospitals. Of the remaining funds, each college designated $7,500 to scholarships to help low-income, local nursing students. Though both colleges used the Northeast Regional Council’s funds to award scholarships to local, low-income CNA and nursing students, NJC and MCC differed in the strategies employed to award the scholarships.
MCC used its $5,000 grant to offer more CNA courses and certifications than previous years. With the help of the Northeast Regional Council grant, MCC was able to increase CNA certifications from 37 in 2009 to 62 in 2010. MCC leveraged the remaining $7,500 to garner additional funds from the Morgan County Workforce Center. As a result, it was able to award three scholarships in the amounts of $1,250, $2,500 and $3,750.
According to Kathy Frisbie, the director of MCC’s Nursing Program, “the scholarships were beneficial to the selected students because nursing school has many additional costs beyond tuition and fees, such as immunizations, drug screens, background checks, expensive textbooks, and travel costs.”
In contrast, NJC used its $5,000 grant to invest in technology, improve the quality of its training programs, and purchase materials to increase the capacity of its CNA courses. The funds allowed the program to purchase text books, training videos, simulation kits and other necessary medical supplies. NJC’s nursing program chose to divide its $7,500 grant into smaller portions, awarding six $1,000 scholarships and one $500 scholarship to nursing students.
“The majority of the local students are non-traditional students that are older, have children or experience significant commutes to make it to NJC,” says Julie Brower, the director of the NJC nursing program. “Furthermore, due to a requirement in the program for nursing students to regularly travel to local hospitals and clinics, the scholarships aid these students by providing money to cover these travel expenses without the extra burden of loans.”
In terms of long-term impact and goals of the Northeast Regional Council, the grant was based off the concept of “growing your own.” Ideally, providing local resources for local students will help ensure that the students remain in the region and continue to contribute to the health of its residents once they graduate. Fortunately for MCC and NJC, many of the scholarship recipients who have completed their training and degrees thus far have remained in the region as practicing health care professionals. Ultimately, successful programs like NJC and MCC’s nursing programs offer hope and create the potential for other “grow your own” efforts across the state of Colorado.
With the assistance of the nursing scholarship, Carrie was able to continue her education without the burden of significant student loans. Upon completing her education, Carrie plans on remaining in northeast Colorado and becoming a nurse.
*Carrie’s name has been changed but the details of her story are based in fact.