Grants covering tuition, expenses available for careers as direct support professionals, caregivers & supervisors

New scholarships for direct support professional careers

Residents interested in rewarding careers as direct support professionals – as frontline supervisors, community health workers and caregivers in assisted care facilities, nursing homes, other institutions and home-health settings – may be eligible for up to $3,000 per year to cover tuition, fees and expenses at Tennessee’s community and technical colleges, thanks to a $3 million federal grant.

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, awarded the grant to the College System of Tennessee to support the launch of the Direct Support Professional (DSP) Program, designed to transform healthcare and support for adults with disabilities and frail elders. The program will specifically focus on the training of both existing and prospective community health workers and direct support providers. It will also create a registered apprenticeship program on our campuses to build a more robust pipeline of qualified employees in the healthcare sector.

"Utilizing the grant, the DSP program represents an ambitious step in community healthcare and workforce development. By creating new educational and career pathways, we are strengthening our commitment to serving our healthcare systems and our communities," said Dr. Jothany Reed, vice chancellor for academic affairs at the Tennessee Board of Regents, which governs and supports the state’s public community colleges and colleges of applied technology.

Notably, the DSP program is designed to have far-reaching outcomes, both for the individuals it serves and the healthcare professionals it will train. The initiative will accommodate 600 new and current employees who want to upskill to improve their career pathways, particularly residents of medically underserved communities. It will engage trainees in hands-on skills training in actual caregiving jobs or health support environments.

Key elements of the program include:

  • Eligibility: Applicants must be at least 18 years old, have a high school diploma or GED, and be US citizens or hold a Permanent VISA. 
  • Scholarship Benefits: The scholarship covers up to $3,000;  the final amount awarded will depend on other financial aid and overall attendance costs. It's focused on those living or working in medically underserved communities, aiming to boost health equity. Funds can be used for tuition, fees, health insurance, stipends, travel, subsistence, childcare, and other needs – to lower financial barriers that could hinder enrollment. 
  • Additional Costs: Students may face upfront costs like background checks, CPR training, drug screening, and TB skin tests, which may be eligible for reimbursement with the scholarships.
  • Course Delivery: Training programs will be delivered both online, including a mobile-ready delivery platform, and hands-on activities in classrooms and clinical settings. This format gives students the freedom to manage their study alongside other responsibilities. To support this, academically qualified faculty and effective coaches will provide wraparound support services, helping trainees complete their coursework successfully. Students must enroll in one of the three TBR colleges initially offering DSP programming: Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCAT) Shelbyville and Livingston and Dyersburg State Community College.

"Tennessee’s community colleges and technical institutions have a pivotal role in shaping the healthcare workforce of the future. This grant significantly amplifies our capabilities, allowing us to serve medically underserved areas better and create a more sustainable healthcare ecosystem," said Dr. Chuck Lopez, assistant vice chancellor of academic affairs.

The scholarship will support 600 trainees over the life of the grant, which ends in September 2025. Enrollment is open now.

For more information about the Direct Support Professional Program, including steps to apply for the scholarship, visit the Tennessee Board of Regents Direct Support Professional Program website (  or contact Yolanda Vaughn, senior program coordinator, at

The College System of Tennessee is the state’s largest public higher education system, with 13 community colleges, 24 colleges of applied technology and the online TN eCampus serving approximately 140,000 students. The system is governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents.