PA Education Policy 101: Federal EDI Programs 

As PAEA’s Government Relations team seeks to advance the interests of programs, faculty, and students at the national level, a critical component of the Association’s advocacy agenda is support for the federal programs designed to strengthen the diversity of the health workforce. 

The second installment of the PA Education Policy 101 series is focused on these programs, which work to diversify both incoming student cohorts and the faculty members educating the future workforce as well as build pathways to the profession for students underrepresented in medicine. The following programs represent just some of the many opportunities programs have to leverage federal resources to promote equity, diversity, and inclusion in PA education. 

Health Careers Opportunity Program 

The Health Careers Opportunity Program (HCOP) supports pathway development to the health professions by investing in enrichment and support programs at the K-16 level. Through this funding stream, grantees are supported in providing experiential educational opportunities for students through exposure to the needs of underserved communities and the role of health professionals in addressing disparities in care. Grantees are further supported in providing financial resources to program participants to strengthen the likelihood of successful matriculation into a health professions program. To learn more about HCOP, visit the FAQ page on HRSA’s website addressing the most recent funding opportunity. 

Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students 

Beyond the K-16 level, the Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students (SDS) program provides grant funding to health professions schools, including PA programs, seeking to support the financial expenses of economically, environmentally, or educationally disadvantaged students. To be eligible to receive an SDS award, established programs must demonstrate a track record of successful enrollment with at least 20 percent of full-time enrolled students being from a disadvantaged background during the prior three-year period per the most recent application cycle. Unlike other direct scholarship and loan repayment programs, grant recipients are provided with flexibility in determining the allocation of funding to students during their funding period up to a cap of $40,000 per student each year. To learn more about the SDS program, please visit this FAQ page on HRSA’s website. 

Faculty Loan Repayment Program 

In addition to programs which support students, the Faculty Loan Repayment Program (FLRP) offers faculty members from economically and environmentally disadvantaged backgrounds up to $40,000 in loan repayment assistance in exchange for two years of service at an eligible health professions program, including a PA program. While the FLRP is an important incentive in promoting faculty recruitment, potential applicants should note loan repayment aid offered through this program is taxable – though HRSA provides aid to help offset the tax liability. Visit HRSA’s website to learn more about the FLRP and the application process for the program. 

Members and students with questions about federal EDI programs are invited to contact Tyler Smith at