SCC Nursing Program on Path for Growth Thanks to Partnership Perks

When SCC President Dr. Michael Ash and Southeast Iowa Regional Medical Center President & CEO Matt Wenzel announced their multi-million-dollar partnership in April, they put in motion an ambitious plan.

The partnership focuses on expanding SCC’s nursing program to help meet the critical need for nurses. The Great River Health Foundation has pledged up to $10 million over five years to increase the capacity for SCC to serve more nursing students at its campuses in West Burlington and Keokuk.

“This partnership has allowed us to expand an already strong program,” said Ash. “We wouldn’t be able to make such a bold investment without the hospital’s involvement.”

Key initiatives include providing stronger support services to help nursing students succeed, adding faculty and staff to increase nursing program capacity, developing expanded nursing-prep programming for high school students, enhancing recruitment resources, and providing local employment opportunities for program graduates.

The lion’s share of the dollars will go toward hiring faculty and nursing-related professional staff to enable SCC to eventually double its capacity from the current 216 to 432 by 2025-2026.

Enrollment numbers for nursing students starting in the summer were 101 practical nursing (PN) students and 81 associate degree in nursing (ADN) students.

One highly anticipated part of the partnership agreement is the Great River Health Foundation’s direct payment grants to students in each program.

Iowa residents studying PN can receive up to $2,500; for non-residents, that amount is $3,000.

Iowa residents earning their ADN can receive up to $4,000; non-residents may receive $6,000.

The difference in grant amounts is designed to support non-resident students who are ineligible for monies available only to Iowans such as the Last-Dollar Scholarship.

Iowa’s popular Last-Dollar Scholarship covers tuition costs for Iowa residents preparing to enter high-demand occupations, including nursing, once other federal and state grants and scholarships are applied. Students can essentially earn their degree tuition-free.

“Our out-of-state students have to pay more to attend SCC than their fellow Iowa students, and so this is an attempt to level the playing field a little bit,” explained Dr. Ash.

Grant awards are divided evenly between fall and spring semesters each year. Students must pass certain courses and maintain satisfactory academic progress through the first eight weeks of the semester.

The grant does not include repayment or employment requirements.

In addition to the grants, nursing students are afforded other perks, including a dedicated student success advocate to help them navigate the college process, access to specialized tutoring and academic support, and part-time job opportunities at Southeast Iowa Regional Medical Center. All ADN grant recipients will also be guaranteed a job interview with Southeast Iowa Regional Medical Center or its affiliate sites upon successful completion of SCC’s nursing program.

Even before the current nursing shortage, SCC nursing program graduates were highly sought-after. They regularly score higher on licensure exams than their peers across the state and the nation. This is the result of the program’s intensive, rigorous curriculum.

However, not everyone who starts the program succeeds.

“Nursing school isn’t for everybody,” explained SCC Associate Dean of Nursing Maureen Ewinger. “It’s understandably difficult and can be very demanding. But that’s how we maintain our quality standards to deliver quality healthcare professionals.”

Between the partnership’s academic and financial support, students have the benefit of a safety net to help them through challenges they may encounter along the way to becoming a nurse.

“We want to help take the pressure off so they can focus more on their studies and be successful,” said Great River Health Foundation Executive Director Jason Hutcheson. “We hope these dollars mean they won’t have to work quite as many hours or help cover living expenses such as childcare or transportation.”

Students simply elect to receive or decline the grant every semester.

“This is part of the bigger picture,” Ewinger added. “By helping them focus on earning a high-quality education, they’ll be prepared for great-paying jobs, and strengthen our healthcare system and our communities.”

For more information, visit or call (319) 208-5155.

Photos available here:

Photo 1: Two Keokuk campus nursing students practice administering an IV on a medical manikin.

Photo 2: A group of nursing students practice skills during a medical simulation while instructor Deanna Kline looks on in SCC's patient simulation lab on the Keokuk campus.