Federal Grants Support Healthcare Training for Low-Income Students

By AACC Staff

Here’s how some colleges are collaborating to get results.

Editor’s Note: This excerpted article, written by Ellie Ashford, originally appeared at Community College Daily.

People who depend on public assistance need training so they can find jobs that pay enough to support a family. Hospitals and other healthcare providers need qualified employees. Community colleges can provide the training, but many lower-income people can’t financially afford to take advantage of them.

That’s where the federal Health Profession Opportunity Grant (HPOG) program comes in. Created as part of the Affordable Care Act and administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Family Assistance, HPOG provides funding to support healthcare training for people receiving benefits under the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.

A total of about $340 million was awarded in five-year grants in 2010. The second round of HPOG grants was announced in October, with a total of about $290 million to be distributed over five years to nine community colleges, two tribal colleges and 21 other entities, including workforce investment boards, Indian tribes, public agencies and private organizations.

Project HELP

Central Community College (CCC) in Nebraska received a $11.9-million second-round, five-year “HPOG 2.0” grant to expand the college’s Project HELP program established five years ago with $9.5 million in HPOG funds.

According to Marcie Kemnitz, dean of instruction-health sciences, CCC’s goals for the new grant call for the college to enroll 1,445 students in Project HELP, have 1,043 students complete a healthcare occupational training program and have 936 students get a healthcare job.That’s on top of the 1,699 students enrolled in the first round of Project HELP.

Each student is assigned a case manager to help them get through college and connect them with community resources. In addition to tuition, the HPOG funds cover tutoring, gas vouchers, laptops for students to check out, uniforms or scrubs and other needs for participating students.

The new grant will stress long-term, rather than short-term, training.

“We’re focusing on getting individuals into associate of applied science degrees because they lead to those better-paying jobs,” said CCC Grants Manager Marni Danhauer.

“Students will start with certifications to build some confidence,” Kemnitz said. After they, they could aim for an associate degree or higher.

Partnerships are cost-effective

In addition to enrolling more students, the new grant will support partnerships with three other Nebraska community colleges. That will allow colleges to expand their program offerings without duplicating programs and without requiring students and staff to drive across the state.

Southeast Community College (SCC) will set up surgical tech labs close to CCC, Mid-Plains Community College and Northeast Community College (NCC). Students at those colleges will take SCC classes online and meet their clinical lab requirements at local hospitals. The only time they will have to travel to SCC is for graduation. CCC plans to establish a satellite lab for training medical assistants at NCC.

The collaboration saves money for the colleges, as they won’t have to establish expensive labs. It helps students by giving them more educational choices in their own communities.

Nebraska needs more registered nurses and surgical technicians to replace retirees, Kemnitz said. There’s also a growing need for medical assistants and medical lab technicians and “a huge demand for occupational therapy assistants.”

Already showing results

Students assisted uder CCC’s round-one grant are working in nursing homes, clinics, community health programs, public health agencies and hospitals. Many of them are first-generation college students who had never considered college before or were uneasy about enrolling, Kemnitz said. Some were recent high school graduates; others were in their 40s or 50s stuck in low-paying jobs.

These students much more support that traditional students, Kemnitz noted. HPOG funds cover remedial courses and “success coaches,” who will connect students with services and work with their academic advisors to help them navigate through college.

CCC developed partnerships with TANF agencies, workforce development boards and long-term care facilities. Some healthcare providers referred employees to CCC for more advanced training, which enables them to move up to higher-paying jobs.

To continue reading, please visit Community College Daily.

Photo courtesy of Hostos Community College

AACC Staff

contributed to this report.

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