Last-Dollar Scholarship fund could fill financial needs while also filling jobs

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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) -- A new Iowa scholarship fund could help students in eastern Iowa pay for education programs that seek to fill high demand jobs.

Aaron Kraus works on a welding project at Northeast Iowa Community College in Peosta on Monday, June 24. Some students enrolled in welding programs will be able to apply for the Future Ready Iowa Last-Dollar Scholarship. (Charlie Grant, KCRG)

It's called the Future Ready Iowa Last-Dollar Scholarship and it provides money to students whose federal and state aid doesn't cover the entire cost of an education program. It's available to students enrolled in various certificate, diploma and associate's degree programs. The Iowa legislature approved $13 million for the fund.

Students enrolled in eligible programs at Northeast Iowa Community College in Dubuque County will be able to apply for this scholarship. Those programs include computer technology, electrician, industrial maintenance technician, medical laboratory technician, welding and more.

Aaron Kraus is in NICC's welding program. The Chicago-native was originally going to attend a four-year school for physical therapy until he realized his passion for creating things.

"Through friends and family I got sucked into contracting and engineering, so now I'm kind of into fabrication and welding," he said.

He decided to enroll in the welding program to continue his education and capitalize on the job market.

He said, "(welding is) in demand right now and it’s great to be in too.”

Kraus is paying for the program like many other students. "Out of pocket, saving funds, unfortunately, family is not going to help me.”

The Last-Dollar Scholarship could help students like Kraus pay for education. Any new, full-time high school student or full- or part-time adult learner can apply for a scholarship. A student must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and plan to enroll in a program for a high demand job.

Dental assisting is also considered to be in high demand. Dawn Klostermann, director of NICC's dental assistant program, said her graduates aren't filling available positions fast enough.

She said, "the ladies that are going to graduate in July have two to three offers on the table already, so we still have all of these openings that are still waiting to be filled.”

The scholarship fund makes her think about a student of hers that almost dropped out of school when she couldn't make ends meet. "She was thinking about dropping the program because she didn’t have enough money to pay for her rent and her car payment and still be in school.” Klostermann hopes the scholarship helps people like her.

"Not everybody needs to go to a four-year school," she said. "The technical fields are desperately in need of people to fill those jobs."

Kraus agrees. He hopes the scholarship will help other students chase their passions, just like he is.

"Every dollar counts," he said.