A new scholarship program launched this week with a $1 million donation from Kaiser Permanente will be available to a wide spectrum of ethnically, racially and gender-diverse community college students.
“We’ve had specifically targeted scholarships, but this is one of the first that extends to broader access, so it’s going to reach more underrepresented students,” said Warren Epstein, spokesman for Pikes Peak Community College in Colorado Springs.
PPCC is one of 13 community colleges qualifying for the Kaiser Permanent Colorado Equity Scholarship Fund, operated by the Foundation for Colorado Community Colleges.
The 15-year endowed fund will provide $2,500 scholarships to students of color — Black, Latinx, Native American Asian American and Pacific Islander — as well as LGBTQ, students with disabilities and military veterans, pursuing an associate’s degree or certificate program in health sciences fields.
Students must be enrolled in one of the 13 schools in the Colorado Community College System, the largest and most diverse provider of higher education in Colorado, with 125,000 students on 38 campuses.
Epstein said the contribution “represents Kaiser’s commitment to diversify its workforce by starting at the training level.”
Increasing diversity in the healthcare workforce improves communication between medical professionals and eliminates bias in delivering services, Mike Ramseier, Kaiser’s regional president in Colorado, said in a news release.
“By looking to the future and expanding access to education, we can model the way toward a health care system that reflects the diversity of our communities and prioritizes equal access to care,” he said.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that four million new health care jobs will be created in the United States by 2026. At the same time, significant workforce shortages are expected in nursing, home health and primary and specialty care.
Health sciences are popular tracts; about 40% of all credentials Colorado community colleges award are in health-related fields, according to statistics.
The scholarship will be competitive, with 28 winners selected a year from the entirety of 13 community colleges.
The $2,500 scholarship, which at PPCC will pay for about half of the general cost of a health care-related program, including tuition, fees and books, could be combined with financial aid.
“That would be a good step to getting the whole ball taken care of,” Epstein said.
Studies show that a higher percentage of students who receive large scholarships complete their higher education program, he said.
“That outcome is what we’re aiming for,” Epstein said. “When you break it down by race and ethnicity, scholarships like this can make a big difference.”
Applications for the program will open in 2022.