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Federal Funds Help Students 'Pay It Forward'


February 2011 | by Jane Kettering

It took a "massive spreadsheet" and months of data gathering, but securing a federal grant of $468,753 to provide full- and partial-tuition scholarships for students studying in the health sciences and human services at St. Ambrose was well worth the effort.

"These are substantial awards that came as a complete surprise to the recipients," says Sandy Cassady, PhD, dean of the College of Education and Health Sciences, and professor of physical therapy. "Some of our students sat in my office and cried."

Close to $1.5 million in funding through the Department of Health and Human Services and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act went to five colleges and universities in Iowa, with Ambrose receiving the most funding. That's because grant dollars were awarded in part based on the proportion of graduates who go to work in medically underserved communities, and are specifically to support students who themselves come from these types of communities or disadvantaged backgrounds. "Our programs do a great job of tracking outcomes. We were able to document that 75 percent of our health sciences graduates went to work last year in underserved communities," Cassady says.

In all, 31 Ambrose students in nursing, social work, and occupational and physical therapy received awards averaging nearly 75 percent of the cost of tuition. One such student was master of occupational therapy student Kaitlyn Weis. "The scholarship has taken a lot of financial stress off of me," she says.

Looking to next year's grant cycle, Cassady says that "As long as the money is available we're going to take the time to apply for it." In fact, the plan is to seek support for students in the Master of Speech-Language Pathology program in the next grant application.

"Securing the grant is an accomplishment for the university and a wonderful support for our students," Cassady says. "It's also another way we are serving our community, by preparing the best health care and human services professionals possible so they may serve where they are acutely needed."


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