Ten months ago when 20-year-old Cory Hennick joined the utility team at the City of Huxley, he already knew he would need to get a Class B commercial driver’s license (CDL). He just didn’t know how he was going to pay for it. Enter the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund – better known as GEER II Gap Expansion – a limited funding source that is providing tuition and fee assistance to Iowa’s adult students in short-term and non-credit courses.

For adult students like Hennick, GEER II Gap Expansion can provide tuition assistance to students who have traditionally been ineligible to receive other funding due to income restrictions. For the first time, these students can qualify for assistance with non-credit certificate courses in high-demand job fields. Additionally, adults who enroll in short-term courses under 16 credits can also receive assistance through GEER II funds.

“GEER II Gap Expansion is truly innovative,” said Paula Nissen, administrative consultant for the Iowa Department of Education. “Iowa is one of the first states in the nation to provide this type of funding for non-credit and short-term credit courses. This funding helps a large pocket of adult students who aren’t eligible for other assistance.”

Hennick received GEER II Gap Expansion funding at Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) while pursuing the Class B CDL certification. He paid no tuition costs for the online theory course and 12-hour driving instruction class and saved $1,640 in out-of-pocket costs.

“I needed to get a CDL certification to be able to operate several pieces of equipment, like a snow plow, for the City of Huxley,” he said. “I didn’t have to pay anything for my CDL course. I probably would not have been able to do it if I had to pay the tuition cost myself.”

GEER II Gap Expansion has only been available since June 2021, but it has made a big impact for Iowans looking to upskill and advance in their careers. It has also proven to be a starting point for further higher education as students who find success in a college course are many times encouraged to go further and pursue a diploma or degree. Over $2.8 million have been distributed to Iowa’s 15 community colleges to assist students through September 2023.

“We have a high-demand for funding assistance each year,” said Michael Hoffman, executive director of continuing education at DMACC. “GEER II Gap Expansion helps us provide assistance for students in training courses for in-demand job fields.”

GEER II Gap Expansion supports education and training for high-need job areas in Iowa, such as CDL certification and a wide variety of health care options. In fact, DMACC has seen great interest in both, and courses in health care areas such as certified nursing assistant, certified dietary aide, phlebotomy, pharmacy technician, medication aide and more have been booming.

“Post pandemic, we’re seeing a huge need for training for health care workers in long-term care facilities,” Hoffman said.

Mary Buckner, 50, is a newly certified medication aide who was able to use GEER II Gap Expansion for her three-month course at DMACC.

“I always wanted to be a medication aide,” she said. “The funding helped me out by paying for everything.”

Buckner, a certified nurse assistant, now uses her new certification as a medication aide to work in a long-term care facility. Her duties include dispensing medication, taking vitals and providing some treatments for patients.

Both Buckner and Hennick believe their additional certifications through DMACC and assistance through GEER II Gap Expansion have improved their job satisfaction as well as their ability to compete in today’s job market, and they encourage others to look into upskill training.

“It’s definitely a benefit for me as well as the small town I work for,” Hennick said. “I would tell anyone to pursue classes and go for it.”

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