In 2009, when Kaiser Permanente began offering a $2,000 scholarship—aimed largely at increasing college access and participation of students from diverse and/or economically disadvantaged backgrounds in the health care professions—they weren’t sure whether the scholarship would provide enough funding to make a difference in the lives of students.
With an evaluation of the program for the years 2009-2014 (conducted by Education Northwest) now complete and available online, Kaiser now has evidence showing how well the program works, and the results are promising.
“We know that the cost of college is high, so we weren't sure what the evaluation would reveal about the impact of a scholarship of this size,” says Melissa Leonard, program manager of Kaiser Permanente’s Community Health Careers. “We were so pleased to see that a good number of the respondents reported that their motivation to attend college was impacted by the scholarship, and that more than half felt that it made it financially possible for them to attend college. Respondents also shared that opportunities for greater financial assistance would be even more helpful, which made us feel good about the $5,000 and $10,000 awards we added to the program in 2015.
This scholarship had a huge impact on my decision to pursue medicine, and it reminded me that anything is possible with hard work, regardless of what your background may be.
—Kaiser Health Care Career Scholarship Recipient
The evaluation has inspired a number of program improvements. For example, the evaluation showed that the scholarship program is meeting its goal of reaching diverse students but can do a better job in recruiting students who are economically disadvantaged. As a result, the program will give heavier weighting to financial need in the application review process. Other program changes based on the evaluation findings include requiring scholarship recipients to work with an academic advisor (which past recipients identified as being critical to their success); working more closely with nonprofit programs and projects that focus on academic preparedness; and promoting more internships, job shadow, and volunteer opportunities for recipients within Kaiser Permanente.
In addition to conducting the evaluation, Education Northwest also created an infographic that the Community Health Careers initiative is using to share the findings and start conversations. According to Tracy Dannen-Grace, director of community partnerships and philanthropy at Kaiser Permanente, the evaluation has contributed to the program’s ability to receive new and additional funding. “It has been an important conversational tool to gain organizational awareness and support for the initiative and for cultural competency practices within our own health care system,” she says. “It is also adding to community awareness around educational disparities, especially in culturally specific groups.”