As the nationwide nursing shortage persists, the Health Foundation of South Florida, the region’s largest philanthropic organization focused on achieving health equity in underserved communities, announced a $1 million investment to fund expanded enrollment, scholarships and other support services for nursing and health sciences students at two local public colleges—Miami Dade College and Broward College.

With the funding, the Health Foundation not only seeks to bolster South Florida’s nursing and allied healthcare workforce (which includes medical assistants and techs as well as licensed practical nurses, for example) but also increase access to well-paying, in-demand jobs for students from the region’s underserved, Black and Hispanic communities.

“We understand there are no quick or simple solutions to our region’s shortage of nursing and healthcare workers. But we also believe the crisis presents an opportunity for us to help pave the way to good, steady, well-paying jobs for more people in our community,” said Loreen Chant, CEO of the Health Foundation of South Florida. “We care about this deeply because we know that improving the health and well-being of our region is impossible without making economic opportunity and mobility more accessible.”

The grants will be used by both colleges to attract more minority, first-generation and low-income students to their respective health sciences and nursing programs. They will offer scholarships and create retention and support initiatives to help ensure the students graduate successfully and are ultimately connected to health system jobs. Many students who enroll face significant challenges, such as family responsibilities, financial obligations and other structural or motivational barriers that often impede them from completing certificate or degree programs.

Miami Dade College—which received a $500,000 grant from the Health Foundation that was matched by an additional $500,000 from the Mitchell Wolfson Family Foundation—will use the funds to expand its recently launched certification program for licensed practical nurses, or LPN’s. In addition, they will use the grant to increase the number of students earning two-year Associate Degrees in nursing and to provide scholarships, extra academic prep classes and workshops for students in need.

Broward College, which also received a $500,000 grant, will use the funds to launch an initiative to support health sciences students who have unmet personal and economic needs. The college plans to hire two full-time “retention specialists” whose jobs it will be help vulnerable students access the support they need so they can graduate successfully. The school also plans to leverage the Health Foundation’s grant to secure an additional $700,000 to fund the efforts.