March 2, 2022

Scholarships support students pursuing health care careers

With our Health Equity Scholars Program, we’re helping students achieve their dreams of going to college while increasing diversity in health care.

Health care scholarship recipient Aleysa Garcia Rivas celebrating her graduation from Oregon State University.

When Aleysa Garcia Rivas was a high school senior, she applied for as many scholarships as she could to help with upcoming college costs. One of the scholarships she received was the Health Care Career Scholarship from Kaiser Permanente, which provided Garcia Rivas, a first-generation undergraduate college student who wanted to pursue a career in public health, money and support for living and learning expenses while attending Oregon State University.

“The scholarship I received through Kaiser Permanente was a huge help. Not having to worry about how to pay for tuition and books was something that enabled me to focus on my studies,” said Garcia Rivas, who also worked about 20 hours a week throughout her entire undergraduate career.

The scholarship program Garcia Rivas participated in is now part of a new, broader effort funded by Kaiser Permanente in partnership with the Hispanic Scholarship Fund and the United Negro College Fund. The grant provided by Kaiser Permanente enabled HSF and UNCF to award $1.26 million in scholarships to 252 high school seniors in 2021 in California, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Oregon, Virginia, Washington, and Washington, D.C

“Grants and scholarships are powerful and preferable ways to ease financial burdens on low-income students,” said UNCF executive vice president of development Maurice Jenkins. “Even small scholarships that can cover immediate learning and living expenses can improve graduation rates and support students in their persistence throughout higher education.”

Addressing education’s unequal financial burden

Student debt is a growing crisis in the United States, affecting people of all races and a broad range of income levels. However, the burden of debt is not carried equally across the nation. According to the Roosevelt Institute, between 2000 and 2018 the median student debt for white borrowers nearly doubled — from $12,000 to nearly $23,000. For Black borrowers, that number quadrupled, increasing from $7,000 to $30,000.

As debt looms, career path choices become more limited for students who need to make loan repayment a priority over pursuing a more purposeful career path. Those limited choices can have life-altering consequences.

“We believe that if we can help promising students emerge from colleges and universities with less debt, we can decrease the likelihood that they will suffer from the ensuing financial strain and accompanying chronic stress that can contribute to poor health,” said Bechara Choucair, MD, senior vice president and chief health officer at Kaiser Permanente. “In the long term, we believe these scholars will improve conditions for health in their communities and help innovate the health care system.”

Our Health Equity Scholars Program supports students with backgrounds that represent the country’s diversity in race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, and gender identity. In addition, 71% of the recipients are first-generation college students. They bring their diverse perspectives to the colleges they attend and to the health care field they plan to enter.

Building healthier communities

In addition to financial support, we and our partners provide additional support and opportunities for scholars to help them stay in school and gain career exposure and work experience in the health care industry.

Garcia Rivas graduated from Oregon State University in 2020 — debt-free. She now works for PacificSource Health Plans as a health equity and diversity liaison for Marion and Polk county coordinated care organizations, partnering with community-based organizations and internal teams to ensure that health equity needs are being met.

The national scholarship program is one of the latest efforts we have supported to increase diversity across the health care field and bolster economic opportunity in the communities we serve. It follows announcements to provide paid fellowships to public health graduate students; our partnership with Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West to establish Futuro Health, a nonprofit organization dedicated to growing the largest network of certified health care workers in the country; and our commitment to waive tuition for the first 5 classes entering the Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine.

Applications for scholarships are accepted by:

  • The Hispanic Scholarship Fund; accepting next round of applicants beginning early 2023
  • The United Negro College Fund; deadline May 31