New round of Virtual Scholars awards to address needs of Nebraska students, schools

The University of Nebraska announced today that it will continue its highly successful Nebraska Virtual Scholars program in 2014-15 by offering 150 scholarships for students in the state to take courses from the University of Nebraska High School for free.

Nebraska schools can apply for the scholarships on behalf of their students beginning today. All Nebraska high schools are eligible to apply. Applications will be accepted through Oct. 1, with recipients announced in mid-October.

This year will mark the third phase of Nebraska Virtual Scholars, which the university first launched in 2011 as a way to expand access to online courses to Nebraska high school students to help them be more college- and career-ready – goals that align with the mission of the state’s P-16 Initiative. The initiative has provided scholarships for students around the state to take advanced, elective and core courses that they likely would not otherwise have had access to. Nebraska Virtual Scholars also has created opportunities for the university to work with school administrators to identify challenges they are facing that could be addressed through online education.

Expanding Virtual Scholars, with a particular focus on rural, first-generation and low-income students, was among the “college pipeline” commitments the university made to the White House earlier this year as part of a national initiative to increase college access and success for underrepresented students.

“The Nebraska Virtual Scholars program is meeting important needs in our state. Schools have shared compelling stories with us about highly qualified students who wanted to take advanced courses that weren’t offered at their schools, students who needed to work a core course into their schedule so they could graduate, and students who wanted to take a unique elective related to their career goals – among others,” said Interim NU President Dr. James Linder. “We’re excited to offer another round of University of Nebraska High School scholarships that will supplement the good work being done in schools around the state. Ultimately, Nebraska will benefit when all students have equal access to high-quality secondary education that prepares them to succeed in college and in the workforce. We are working to expand this important program.”

Last year the university received more than 200 applications for 100 available Virtual Scholars awards. Schools most commonly sought scholarships for math and science, career education and language courses; other core and elective courses such as art and economics also were requested. Key challenges identified by schools included a need for more Advanced Placement and upper-level STEM courses; a need to better serve transfer students and students who have fallen behind or are otherwise at risk; reductions in staff and budgets; and scheduling conflicts posed by limited course availability.

The University of Nebraska High School has evolved its curriculum in response to challenges identified by schools, for example by adding new career education and science courses.

“Nebraska Virtual Scholars has been a great success so far and we look forward to continuing to work with schools in our state to make online education available to more students,” said Barbara Wolf Shousha, director of the University of Nebraska High School. “While Nebraska Virtual Scholars can’t meet every educational need in Nebraska, we’re incredibly proud that we’ve been able to positively impact many students around the state. I hope schools will again take advantage of this important opportunity.”

The University of Nebraska High School’s full catalog of more than 100 core, elective and Advanced Placement courses are available for Virtual Scholars awards. The high school’s standard cost for Nebraska residents is $194 per one-semester course.

The high school currently serves 2,700 students, of whom about 250 are Nebraskans. Growing resident enrollment is a key goal for the high school as the university works to achieve the P-16 Initiative goals for increasing the state’s high school graduation and college-going rates.

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