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The University of Nebraska is serving the state through affordable access to quality education
January 2012: The University of Nebraska is serving the state through affordable access to quality education Lana Koziol, a junior at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, always knew she wanted to go to college. She wasn’t always sure how she would pay for it.

Lana, who grew up in Cedar Rapids, Neb., worked hard in high school, earning good grades and getting involved in extracurricular activities. She attended college fairs and heard a speaker about financial aid. And she made the wise decision to fill out the FAFSA – the Free Application for Federal Student Aid – as soon as she could.

Her smart choices paid off. By completing the FAFSA, Lana learned she was eligible for Collegebound Nebraska, the University of Nebraska’s financial aid program that promises that any Nebraska undergraduate who receives a federal Pell Grant can attend NU and pay no tuition.

Let me say that again in case it sounds too good to be true. The University of Nebraska has a program that allows students with the highest financial need to attend any one of our four campuses and pay no tuition. Most students who come from a family of four with one in college and an income of about $53,000 or less are eligible for the Collegebound Nebraska promise.

Last year the University extended that promise to 6,200 students – including Lana, who’s studying recreation management with a minor in sports administration. Lana hopes to start a career in sports management and is considering pursuing a master’s degree in student affairs.

“I am really thankful that there is something like Collegebound Nebraska available to help students out financially,” she says.

Lana is on track to be the first in her family to graduate from college. She’s looking forward to helping her younger brother, who’s a junior in high school, prepare for college too.

I’m proud of Lana and believe she’s not only a role model to her brother – she’s a role model for many Nebraska students who might not think an NU education is within reach. Collegebound Nebraska is our promise to Nebraskans that they can afford college. I hope many more families will take advantage of this tremendous opportunity.

After all, it’s becoming clear that a high school education is no longer enough to be competitive in the workforce. Studies show the United States will need millions more college graduates if we are to meet future demands. Nebraska is no exception. About two-thirds of all jobs in our state will require education beyond high school by 2018. The University of Nebraska is doing its part to make sure our state is ready for the future by maintaining our focus on our No. 1 priority: serving all Nebraskans through affordable access to high-quality education.

For example, our commitment to affordability extends well beyond Collegebound Nebraska. Mounting student debt is a popular topic in the media these days, and while I know college is a big investment, the University of Nebraska remains an affordable choice compared to similar institutions. Tuition at our campuses in Lincoln, Omaha and Kearney is well below the peer averages – and that’s just the “sticker price.” The majority of our students receive some form of financial aid that lowers their costs significantly.

In fact, including Collegebound Nebraska, we invested more than $10.4 million in need-based aid this year. This doesn’t include the millions of dollars we receive in private funds that ease the financial burden for many additional students.

We also know that online learning is the fastest-growing area in higher education. The University isn’t sitting on the sidelines. Our distance learning program, Online Worldwide, offers more than 100 programs in education, health sciences, business, public administration and more – including degree completion programs targeted to the nearly 290,000 Nebraskans who have completed some college but have not earned a degree. Online Worldwide is an excellent option for students who can’t attend one of the University’s campuses in the traditional sense because of family or work obligations.

In addition, the Independent Study High School, based at UNL, serves many students in Nebraska and around the world via distance learning. The University recently initiated a pilot program called Virtual Scholars through which we offered free Independent Study High School course enrollments to high schools across the state. Students from 25 high schools, most of them rural, are benefiting.

These are just a few examples of how the University of Nebraska ensures that Nebraskans have access to high-quality education. This has always been our first priority. While we have ambitious plans for the future, everything we do is designed first to serve the people of Nebraska. That’s in our DNA as a land-grant university – and I believe that mission is as important today as it was when the Morrill Act was signed almost 150 years ago.
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