How can Indiana increase its number of college grads? This Fort Wayne-based program could help

Scholarships are often meant to offset student debt. Or make college more affordable. 

But for some students, the need goes beyond affordability. Due to financial barriers and other socioeconomic factors, college may not even be on the table. 
A new program aims to open the door to a college education—and a career path—for these students. 

The Parkview Opportunity Scholars award was created by Parkview Health in partnership with Ivy Tech, the Questa Education Foundation, and Fort Wayne Community Schools. The goal of the program is to support students who may not have otherwise gone to college—whether they have financial need, are first-generation college students, are first-generation Americans, or may not have considered college due to other barriers.

Starting with the class of 2023, the program is open to seniors attending any of the five high schools in the Fort Wayne Community Schools district, and it will be awarded to up to 50 students per year. 

“This is meant to ignite and inspire more students and put them on a path to higher education and a fulfilling career,” says Heather Schoegler, Director of Strategic Educational Partnerships at Parkview Health. “This is going to open so many more doors than they thought possible.” 

Representatives from Parkview Health, Indiana Tech, the Questa Foundation and Fort Wayne Community Schools gathered in October to celebrate the launch of the new Parkview Opportunity Scholars award.

Keep in mind: This isn’t a traditional college scholarship. The Parkview Opportunity Scholars award is actually a forgivable loan that will cover full tuition and fees for a qualifying associate degree from Ivy Tech. Students will receive full loan forgiveness if they complete their associate degree within two years and complete at least one year of full-time employment in their degree field with Parkview Health after graduation. 

The program is designed to remove many of the barriers that prevent students from considering or completing a college education. The application does not require a written essay, and it provides alternatives for those who cannot file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). To help students successfully complete the forgivable loan requirements, they will be offered additional support, including a student cohort, financial counseling, mentoring, and embedded learning experiences at Parkview Health.

The program also offers an array of career opportunities, going beyond traditional healthcare roles. Qualifying degrees can be related to any careers that are employed by Parkview Health, including clinical degrees like nursing, but also non-clinical degrees for professional and support services. 

“Of course, we are always looking to hire more clinical co-workers, such as nurses, surgical techs, and paramedics,” says Hallie Custer, Vice President of Human Resources at Parkview Health. “However, we are the largest employer in the region, with many different departments. So we also need co-workers for things, like cyber security, data analytics, food services, and even trades, like construction and HVAC, to support our clinical operations.” 

Parkview partnered with Fort Wayne Community Schools to pilot this new award because the district has the biggest need, or rather, opportunity. It is the largest school district in the state, and also the second most diverse. Additionally, more than 65 percent of its student population is economically disadvantaged.  

“An opportunity like this doesn’t just impact a student—it can create a ripple effect in their families for future generations,” Schoegler says. “In terms of economic development, this is creating a skilled workforce, not only for Parkview but also for our region. It’s almost like we’re creating a whole new pool of job candidates.”

Fort Wayne Community Schools seniors are encouraged to apply for the Parkview Opportunity Scholars award before the priority decision deadline of March 1, 2023. If any of the 50 awards remain after March, students may continue applying until the start of Ivy Tech’s classes in the fall 2023 semester.  

For more information, or to apply for a Parkview Opportunity Scholars award, visit questafoundation.org/parkview-opportunity.