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AIC receives federal grant to support low-income nursing students

Date: 10/29/2012

By Katelyn Gendron

SPRINGFIELD — Forty students in the nursing program at American International College (AIC) can rest a bit easier knowing their tuition debt will be reduced and post-graduate life will almost ensure a job thanks to a multi-million dollar federal grant and an expanding medical field.

The four-year $2.38 million grant — the largest ever awarded to the college — from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration will be distributed to low-income undergraduates within the Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students (SDS) program, AIC President Vince Maniaci announced at a press conference on Oct. 24.

"We've had many students forced to leave the program because they had to work to provide for their families. We even had one student who was living in his car," Karen Rousseau, AIC director of Nursing, said. "This grant will allow us to recruit and maintain these students who will become competent professionals."

She noted that since the nursing program's inception in 1978, the college has graduated more than 1,200 medical professionals. The average graduating class includes "58 percent from disadvantaged backgrounds and 30 to 40 percent are ethnically diverse," Rousseau added.

The economic impact of the grant throughout the Pioneer Valley will also be vast, William Ward of the Regional Employment Board, told those attendance, which included students in the nursing program.

"Healthcare is the number one economic driver in our region. Seventeen to 19 percent of jobs in the Valley are in healthcare and at the center of the industry is the most numerous occupation the nurse," he said.

Students in the SDS program will be eligible for a maximum of $15,000, which includes tuition, educational and living expenses.

"This is the largest BSN [bachelor's of science in nursing] program in the region. This grant will help to provide transformative education to people of lower income, especially those first generation college students," AIC Provost Todd Fritch said.

Congressman Richard Neal '72, who lobbied on the college's behalf, praised AIC administrators for their efforts to secure the grant and to maintain the high quality of education he received.

"AIC gave me the confidence to stand on my feet and I've never felt over matched ... This [grant] will mean immediate and long term investment for the Pioneer Valley [and the students will benefit] the way I benefitted from National Defense loans when I was here," he said.