WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) — A donation from the Steve and Amy Van Andel Foundation will help more students become nurses without breaking the bank.

In November, Grand Rapids Community College and University of Michigan Health-West announced they would partner to create a new scholarship for nursing students.

After finishing a semester of GRCC’s nursing program, students are eligible to apply for the scholarship, which pays for up to three semesters of GRCC tuition. Upon completing the associate degree program, recipients will commit to working at U-M Health West for two years and become registered nurses. U-M Health West will support these nurses in completing their bachelor’s degrees.

The U-M Health West Foundation funded the pilot program, which had space for about 10 students for four semesters.

The new donation will allow the program, named The Amy Van Andel Nursing Scholars Program, to grow and continue over the next several years, according to Dr. Peter Hahn, CEO of U-M Health-West.

“This is truly an innovative program where 20 to 30 student nurses (each year) at Grand Rapids Community College will receive funding for their studies,” Hahn told News 8. “Many of these students will be first-generation students, and many of them will go on to become first-generation professionals.”

In the future, Hahn said, the program might reach beyond general nursing.

“There are different areas of nursing that I think the scholarship will evolve into,” he said.

Michigan has experienced a shortage of nurses. A recent study by the University of Michigan found that 39% of Michigan nurses plan to leave their jobs within a year.

Hahn attributed the nursing shortage to an aging population with more complex medical problems, a generation of retiring nurses and fewer applicants to nursing programs due to their costs.

“That’s why a program like this is so important,” Hahn said. “It allows nursing students — a lot of them first-generation students — to study without financial burden.”