GVSU Creates Scholarship To Help Second Career Nurses

June 5, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — Judy Pratt had seen enough.

A growing number of nursing students Pratt advises at Grand Valley State University were people who'd already earned a degree in another field and now wanted to enter the nursing profession. With student loans still to pay off from their first college stint, one of the biggest obstacles many of those second-career students faced was coping financially.

Pratt's solution: A new scholarship that, for at least a few students each year, would help to ease the financial burden of returning to school to earn a bachelor's degree in nursing. While new college students have numerous options for financial aid open to them, there's little available for those seeking to start a second career, Pratt said.

"I finally got to the point where I couldn't stand it one more minute. It has to start some place," said Pratt, the recruiter for GVSU's Kirkhof School of Nursing.

The Kirkhof School recognized Pratt's initiative last week with a luncheon to mark the formation of the Judy Pratt Non-Traditional Nursing Scholarship.

The school is seeking contributions beyond the more than $20,000 already raised in order to offer at least one scholarship in each of the three trimesters during the school year. The number of scholarships awarded and their amount will depend on how many students apply for assistance and how much is available each year, said Phyllis Gendler, dean of the Kirkhof School of Nursing.

Gendler was easily convinced about the need to form a scholarship for second-career nursing students after Pratt first approached her with the idea, she said.

"If anyone knows what our student are like, it's Judy," Gendler said. "She truly knows where we need to help students."

About one-third of the nursing students enrolling at the Kirkhof School's summer and fall 2001 semesters are people who already hold a degree, Pratt said. A good number of them are now employed in other areas of the health care industry, she said.

The formation of the scholarship comes as the industry forecasts a severe nursing shortage in the future. That's coupled with a decline in the number of people entering the nursing profession.

While enrollments at Grand Valley's Kirkhof School have grown over the years and remain strong, the trend is the opposite nationally.

Enrollment fell last fall in both bachelor's programs and master's level courses at nursing schools nationwide for the sixth straight year, although the decreases were less than those recorded in previous years.

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