Washington Watch: New nursing grants prioritize community colleges


The American Association of Community Colleges has advocated in the current Congress to ensure that community college nursing programs begin to receive some of their fair share from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). These efforts have now borne some fruit.

Community colleges are slated to receive special consideration for grants in a newly available opportunity at HHS’s Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).

Applications are now open for the Nurse Education, Practice, Quality, and Retention – Workforce Expansion Program, which aims to expand the nursing workforce in rural and underserved areas.  The grant solicitation states that, “Nursing students who graduate from community college nursing programs are eligible to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam and enter the workforce quicker; they increase diversity in underrepresented communities and serve as a foundation for RNs [registered nurses] to obtain higher levels of nursing education.”

A directive included in the report accompanying the fiscal year 2024 appropriations bills stated that HRSA should enhance the “participation of community colleges in programs for increasing the supply of the nursing workforce.” Community colleges have historically received a lower proportion of HRSA grant dollars relative to the number of nursing degrees they confer. In 2022, 44% of licensed RNs had entered the profession with an associate degree.

HRSA expects to award five grants of up to $1 million annually. The program has a four-year performance period.

The deadline to apply is July 26. The agency is expected to make awards by September 30.

Priorities and activities

In addition to the special consideration given to community college applicants, the program has two funding priorities that can increase an application’s score. Priority will be given to applicants in states with the greatest nursing workforce shortages, as defined by HRSA. Those states are Georgia, California, Washington, New Jersey, North Carolina, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Maryland, Michigan and Oregon.

Funding priority will also go to “eligible entities that can provide proof of their status as a public entity,” which will clearly benefit community colleges.

Recipients of the grant will have to engage in the following activities:

  • Implement a system for recruitment and retention of associate and/or baccalaureate degree nursing students committed to practicing in acute and long-term care settings following graduation.
  • Increase nursing student enrollment between 5% and 10% above the institution’s current baseline.
  • Implement specialized education and training for nursing students on care of patient populations in long-term care and acute care settings.
  • Provide student support to nursing students enrolled in the specialized training rotations.
  • Establish or expand meaningful collaborative academic, practice and community partnerships.
  • Recruit and retain nursing faculty and clinical faculty.

Applications are encouraged

Community colleges are strongly encouraged to apply for this grant opportunity.

HRSA will hold a pre-application webinar for the funding opportunity on June 25 at 1 pm EST. The webinar will provide an overview of the notice of funding opportunity and a chance for applicants to ask questions.

About the Author

Alexis Gravely
Alexis Gravely is a legislative analyst at the American Association of Community Colleges.
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