NICC receives grant award to support students eligible for DHS Food Assistance program

Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC) has received a grant sub-award in partnership with Kirkwood Community College that will provide more financial assistance for low-income eligible students through the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) Food Assistance Employment and Training (FA E&T) program.

NICC was selected as a community college partner for the grant sub-award in part because of the College’s expansive 5,000-square mile, eight-county service area with a substantial percentage of residents who have not earned a high school diploma or a high school equivalency diploma (HSED) and qualify for food assistance through the FA E&T program.

Just under half of northeast Iowa residents, 49.2 percent, reported a high school diploma, HSED or less as the highest educational level attained – higher than the 42 percent reported statewide, according to EMSI, Inc. Of this population, 8.08 percent of residents 25 and older live in poverty.

Higher education often seems unattainable for community members who are experiencing severe economic hardship and food insecurity. Often faced with barriers such as unreliable transportation, unpredictable and long work hours, childcare needs and health barriers, the time and financial investment to earn a post-secondary credential can seem impossible.

The grant sub-award to NICC for Fiscal Year 2018 (pending approval of federal budget) will provide financial assistance for students who receive Food Assistance through the Iowa Department of Human Services and enroll in one of 19 Career Pathway Certificate programs offered at the College. NICC will use the grant funds and state GAP funding to pay for tuition, educational support services and other support services for eligible students.

To provide individualized support, NICC has developed and integrated several approaches including the success model, a student-focused service strategy to assist Career Pathway Certificate students from recruitment and intake to job placement or continuing education. In this model, success coaches connect students to necessary educational resources, social services, workforce services and other resources as appropriate.

Additionally, northeast Iowa is experiencing a skilled workforce shortage with two-thirds of jobs requiring education and training beyond high school, but not a four-year degree, according to a November 2015 report by Iowa Workforce Development. The Career Pathway Certificate programs developed by NICC help to close the skills gap in the welding, computer numerical control (CNC), industrial maintenance, Certified Nurse Aide (CNA) and other job sectors. The programs lead directly to employment or offer transferable credits that ladder into similar diploma and degree programs at the College.

The College is also a partner in the Opportunity Dubuque program, which connects Career Pathway Certificate students with employers and Re-engage Dubuque, an initiative that helps stop-out high school students complete a diploma or earn a high school equivalency diploma.
After allocating GAP funds to assist eligible students with the cost of Career Pathway Certificate program tuition, NICC would be reimbursed 50 percent through the grant sub-award partnership.

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