Cranford, NJ – Union College of Union County, NJ (UCNJ) aims to address the shortage of healthcare employees in our region with the assistance of a grant received from Bank of America (BofA). This vital grant, via BofA’s Progresando initiative, aims to elevate and accelerate the path for Hispanic and Latino students in targeted healthcare programs. The purpose of this private-public partnership grant is especially timely given current headlines about healthcare staffing shortages post-COVID in New Jersey and across the nation.
UCNJ is a proud, federally-designated Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI). The Progresando initiative was created to help Hispanic-Latinos achieve upward economic mobility through careers in healthcare, while also helping to increase representation and address the shortage of culturally sensitive, Spanish-speaking health providers. Over the two-year term of the grant, the national initiative is projected to help more than 6,200 Hispanic-Latino students nationwide commit to healthcare related programs, doubling the current student rate.
At UCNJ specifically, the Progresando initiative aims to increase retention, course completion rates, and licensure pass rates for the Hispanic adult students in targeted healthcare programs such as Nursing, Physical Therapist Assistant, and Social Services. Progresando supports Union County’s growing Hispanic population and the College’s continued commitment to advancing non-traditional students toward high-demand careers. While more than 40% of all UCNJ students identify as Hispanic-Latino, only 27% of students enrolled in the targeted healthcare programs are from this ethnic group. Moreover, despite high proportions of Hispanic residents within Union County and enrolled at the College, Hispanics represent approximately 20% of the county’s healthcare workforce. The initiative will provide these students space to collaborate, receive resources, and access to various support networks to promote academic and career success.
“As part of the Bank’s longstanding commitment to supporting economic opportunity for diverse people and communities, we are excited to see UCNJ as one of two New Jersey institutions thriving from our Progresando initiative,” said Alberto Garofalo, president, Bank of America New Jersey. “Within its first year of receiving the grant, Union has been able to remove barriers to student progress and guide Hispanic-Latino students to grow their participation in healthcare degrees. We are looking forward to seeing the next generation of Hispanic students thrive in the healthcare field.”
“At UCNJ, we are transforming our community by sending well-prepared graduates into the workforce. We take that impact seriously, especially in much needed fields. The pandemic demonstrated to all of us how important healthcare facilities that are well-staffed with qualified health care professionals are to our community. We also understand the importance of representation in industries and are proud to help increase the number of Hispanic healthcare professionals in our community,” stated UCNJ’s Board of Trustees Chair Victor M. Richel. Mr. Richel also serves as the chairman of the Board of Trustees at both Trinitas Health and Trinitas Regional Medical Center.
Under the leadership of Dr. Elizabeth Ramos, Dean of the Elizabeth Campus and Institute for Intensive English, the Progresando initiative has already supported several optimistic outcomes. Dr. Ramos noted that the most significant Progresando achievement to date is the implementation of the cohort-based student support program, which has proven effective at UCNJ as an overall student success strategy. For example, at the end of summer 2023, more than a third of the 211 students participating in Union’s Progresando program graduated. Approximately three-quarters of the Progresando students who had not yet graduated, returned for the fall semester. Per feedback received, these students found the Emergency Assistance stipends and the targeted tutoring most useful in helping them continue their studies at UCNJ. Union’s Progresando cohort is on track to meet the established outcomes of increasing the number of adult Hispanic-Latino graduates in healthcare thanks to grant funding and wrap-around support services afforded by the innovative program.
UCNJ is a public, comprehensive community college that provides quality, affordable, accessible educational programs to the greater Union County region. It is the first of New Jersey’s 18 two-year colleges, serving both career-minded and transfer-oriented students since 1933. The College offers a wide variety of academic and extracurricular activities. Union provides many experiential learning opportunities such as access to a Bloomberg Business Center, Innovation Center, and Student Research hub. Additionally, students at UCNJ attend one of the top 25 community colleges in the country for 2023 and a top 150 for 2025 as designated by the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program. To learn more, visit www.ucc.edu.