Achieve Your Degree

A win-win-win for Ivy Tech, Indiana hospitals and Hoosier health care workers

There’s never been a better time to be a nurse. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employment Projections 2012-2022, released in December 2013, projects the registered nursing (RN) workforce to grow from 2.71 million in 2012 to 3.24 million in 2022, an increase of 526,800 or 19 percent. The bureau estimates the need for an additional 525,000 replacement nurses in the workforce, bringing the total number of job openings for nurses to 1.05 million by 2022.

For nurses, this means plenty of job security. For hospitals seeking to recruit these new nurses—and the universities across the nation tasked with educating them—keeping up with the increasing demand is becoming more and more difficult.


Launched in 2016, the Achieve Your Degree program is a partnership between Ivy Tech Community College and community businesses and institutions to offer employees the opportunity to receive a free community college education.

Here’s how it works: Ivy Tech assists students with the college and financial aid application process and defers billing until the end of the semester, ensuring students take advantage of any financial aid opportunities they qualify for. Company reimbursement plans then cover the balance per company policy.

Parkview Health began its partnership with Ivy Tech on the Achieve Your Degree program earlier this year. “We had been seeking alternatives for our co-workers who were interested in furthering their education, but running into a barrier in paying for the tuition upfront,” said Dena Jacquay, chief human resources officer at Parkview Health. “This partnership with Ivy Tech, in conjunction with our existing tuition assistance program as a benefit for our Parkview co-workers, is truly a win-win-win.”

Because of its statewide geographical presence (the college serves 170,000 students across 32 campuses), Ivy Tech is able to offer a full range of services to its Achieve Your Degree program partners—from on-site courses to application assistance to academic advising for students.

“Students love it,” said Jewel Diller, D.N.P., assistant vice president for nursing at Ivy Tech. “If you have someone who works and has a family or other responsibilities, it’s really difficult for them to think of anything else. But when you can integrate that training with their work, it seems to fit. They’re comfortable with the environment, they get support from Ivy Tech and their employer and they’re familiar with the people in their cohorts. They have some built-in support that you don’t always have during other college courses.”


Students and employers can choose from health care-related degree and certificate programs ranging from pre-nursing studies and patient care technician certificates to medical assisting, respiratory care and surgical technology programs.

“Achieve Your Degree really puts the employer in the driver’s seat around their workforce fulfillment and educational needs,” noted Calvin Thomas IV, vice president for health care at Ivy Tech. “They look at the catalogue of programs and point out places where they find value.”

“We’re hearing from our workforce partners that there are desperate needs for LPNs and RNs in the hospital systems,” said Diller. “The beauty of Achieve Your Degree is that we can look at what the need is from the business and work to fill the need with the proper type of training.”

Thomas has found that the Achieve Your Degree program not only helps upskill employees for open positions, it works to retain them as well. “It’s an excellent retention tool for employers. Some employers are using it as a salary ladder by saying to employees, ‘Complete the following training and receive a bump in pay.’”


In addition to the benefits available to students and employers, Achieve Your Degree program partners are fulfilling a crucial need for Ivy Tech as the college strives to meet the workforce demands in health care. “With nursing, we’ve always had really high-quality programming, but one of our challenges has been securing enough clinical spots for our students,” said Thomas. “Truly, we cannot produce 500 more nurses without 500 more clinical spots.”

To expand the impact of its programming—and to connect with more potential Indiana hospital partners—Ivy Tech recently became a Platinum Partner of the Indiana Hospital Association. “We really see that, if we’re going to grow our nursing program and some of our offerings like medical assisting, surgical tech and patient care technician programs, we need to partner with hospitals all around the state,” said Thomas. “We felt engaging in a relationship with IHA at a high level made a lot of sense for us as an institution.”

If early feedback from hospital partners is any indication, the Achieve Your Degree program will only continue to grow. “We are receiving tremendous feedback at Parkview Health, with more than 100 inquiries thus far and enrollments beginning for the summer and fall sessions,” said Jacquay.


In the end, Achieve Your Degree ensures that both Ivy Tech and Indiana hospitals are serving their main constituencies: Hoosier communities. “All over the state of Indiana, hospitals and health care systems are working to find new ways to attract, retain and develop talent for the communities we serve,” noted Jacquay. “This innovative and collaborative program with Ivy Tech is one example that can have great rewards.”

“Achieve Your Degree is a way for us as an institution to connect with our community,” added Thomas. “We have a real focus on putting ‘community’ back in community college.”

For more information, contact Cathy Armold at