Indian Hills Insight March 2019

“Life continues to happen after someone decides to come to college, and some circumstances are really difficult to overcome.”  In acknowledging that reality, Debbie Boyer says those situations are times when Indian Hills Community College is able to utilize two programs that can help students complete their education.

Boyer is the Coordinator of the GAP and PACE (Pathways for Academic Careers and Employment) programs at IHCC.  Pathway navigators, she says, can help to reduce barriers, increase opportunities and make connections, both on- and off-campus.

The purpose of PACE is to help students complete their training programs, focusing on most credit programs within the health and advanced technology divisions that can be completed in two years or less.  “PACE has been a vital program for many students by allowing assistance to be provided quickly and in the most impactful way, whether that’s through help with rent, utilities, gas cards, groceries, books, course supplies, uniforms, interview clothes, or other needs determined by the student and the pathway navigator,” Boyer explains.

GAP opens doors to select short-term, non-credit programs that can result in employment or serve as a stepping stone to additional education without the student incurring debt.  Those eligible for GAP receive assistance with tuition, books, fees, testing, and equipment required for training and since it’s funded through a grant, the money doesn’t need to be repaid.  The most commonly completed GAP certificates are CNA (Certified Nurse Aide), CDL (Commercial Driver’s License) and Phlebotomy Skills, but there are other options available for GAP’s one-time funding.

PACE uses the same application as GAP.  There are income guidelines for PACE, but that’s not the only way to qualify.  Boyer says the review process is fairly in-depth and the assistance provided is tailored to a student’s individual needs.  “Pathway navigators meet with students individually to complete a brief interview, discuss plans, do a monthly household budget, and talk about training programs,” according to Boyer.  “Credit students can be reviewed for PACE at midterm if they are new to the academic program and they must utilize all aid available to them, including loans, prior to any financial assistance being provided.”

Boyer is able to cite numerous examples of students who have earned a certificate, diploma or degree thanks to the GAP and PACE programs.  Recently, a student in the CDL program had his entire six-week training paid by GAP.  His income has since more than tripled and he now has a job he finds rewarding.  A student in an IHCC technology program was able to find a position in his chosen field after enrolling in PACE, even though he no longer qualified for unemployment or federal assistance.

Not every student qualifies for help from these two programs, but Boyer stresses that those who are not eligible are often referred to community programs and agencies for assistance.  Her staff works diligently, she emphasizes, to assist each individual.

“If you don’t ask, the answer is always ‘no’,” Boyer says.  “We have resources available to help students.  It’s not always through GAP or PACE, but they are a great place to start.”

For more information on the GAP or PACE programs at Indian Hills contact Boyer at 641-583-5131 or

(This is a monthly column, provided by Indian Hills Community College)