Thousands of community college students are learning this month that they’re receiving financial aid from a new state program that’s designed to address a skilled workforce shortage in Iowa. Heather Doe, with the Iowa College Student Aid Commission, says roughly 4,400 students will be the first recipients of an Iowa Skilled Workforce Tuition Grant.

“It’s kind of a surprise to many of these students who are just finding out now that they’re receiving some assistance to help them this Fall and next Spring towards their tuition and fees,” Doe said. The program is also referred to as the Kibbie Grant after former Iowa Senate President Jack Kibbie of Emmetsburg.

Kibbie sponsored the bill that created the grant during the 2012 session. Students may quality for a grant if they’re from Iowa, are enrolled in at least 3 credit hours in a qualified course of study, file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each year, and demonstrate a high level of financial need.

The minimum Kibbie Grant award is one-half of the average Iowa community college tuition and mandatory fees per year. The maximum amount a student can receive is $2,040. Doe notes a wide variety of programs at Iowa community colleges are covered by the program.

“All sorts of fields in health care, computer science and technology, but also a lot of technical programs like machinists, plumbers, welders, carpenters and sustainable energy,” Doe said. Iowa Workforce Development estimates around half of all jobs in the state require an associate’s degree, certification or apprenticeship training — but only 33-percent of Iowa workers have such skills.