A $2.22 million grant from the Colorado Health Foundation will help five Colorado community colleges develop nursing professionals that will server rural areas.

The gift is the largest in the history of the UCCS Beth-El College of Nursing and Health Sciences.

The Southern Colorado Rural Nursing Education and Practice Collaborative launched at Beth-El will enable community college nursing students to earn Bachelor of Science in Nursing degrees in their home communities, taking courses at their local community college or online.

The U.S. nursing shortage is projected to grow to 260,000 by the year 2025, and Colorado’s nursing vacancy rate is double the national average.