Last week, several SkillWorks employers and participants had the opportunity to testify on behalf of the Educational Rewards grant program (HB 977 /SB 42) in front of the Joint Committee on Higher Education of the Massachusetts Legislature.
While this program has been very successful in helping working, part-time students attend and stay in school to earn degrees and credentials, funding has run out and is not available for the current academic year.
SkillWorks, the Workforce Solutions Group, and the Skills2Compete MA coalition are asking for just $500,000 in the state budget to keep Educational Rewards operating this year. We know these are difficult times, but this program is an investment in our long-term prosperity.
I couldn’t say it better than Nezra Sandy, who received an Ed Rewards grant back in September 2008. Here are a few excerpts from her testimony last week:
“My name is Nezra Sandy and I am married and have a beautiful three year old daughter.
“I was a recipient of the Educational Rewards Grant and it helped me enormously. I received financial assistance through the Grant starting in September of 2008. I’m currently a part-time student at Bunker Hill Community College on track for an Associate’s Degree in Nursing. I’ve been a nurse’s aide for twelve years. I also work the night shift at the Everett Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. I’ll receive my associate’s degree in 2014. My goal is to go on for a bachelor’s degree, and once I have my BSN, to go for a master’s degree.
“I received a scholarship to cover tuition, but there is so much that was not covered. I was using my Educational Rewards Grant to cover books…school supplies, and a portion of my living expenses…. Since the Grant funding ended last year, I have found it difficult to cover expenses necessary for my schooling. I now have to wait to get school supplies and required books until I earn enough at my job to cover these expenses (even if it means I have to wait until I am half way into the semester). I also had to drop down to one class from taking two because I can not cover the additional costs without the Educational Rewards Grant.
“This grant is vital because as I get more deeply into the nursing program there will be a great deal of nursing equipment, in addition to books, that I’ll be required to buy. I will not be able to afford the books or the equipment and my living expenses without the Educational Rewards Grant.
“I would like to say a few words about the student success pilot program proposed in this bill. There are special barriers that non-traditional, low-income students, like myself, are confronted with when trying to juggle a family, work, and the educational assignments we need to concentrate on in order to get well paying jobs. Child care, transportation, and a host of other barriers can prevent us from continuing education. The assistance of a special counselor and having supports in place for students like myself would be vital to our success and completion of programs.
“This year, I’ve done well in school and I’m excited about the path I’m on. Working the night shift, caring for my daughter, and working at my studies, I’ve learned to time manage.
“I’m committed to continuing on for a BSN and a Master’s Degree in Nursing…. Passing House Bill 977 and Senate Bill 42 would help us to take pride in ourselves and become economically independent. Thank you very much for your consideration.”
Please take a moment today to call your representative and senator in support of the Educational Rewards bill (HB977/SB42).
Want to read more testimonies?
- Heidi Beck, UMass Boston student
- Joanne Pokaski, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
- Karen Schoch, Children’s Hospital Boston
- Loh-Sze Leung, SkillWorks