For one Grand Island Northwest High School student, a scholarship to take an online astronomy course from the University of Nebraska High School could be the gateway to a college major and career focused on science.
“He has been looking into astronomy as a possible major for a while, but doesn’t know what could be involved. Hopefully this will open his eyes to the field and provide him a way to explore it before entering college,” said Northwest school counselor Lori Merritt.
That student’s scholarship is one of 212 the university has awarded this year for students across the state to take courses from the University of Nebraska High School for free through the Nebraska Virtual Scholars program. The program, which the university launched in 2011, provides Nebraska high school students the opportunity to take advanced, elective and core online courses that they likely would not otherwise have access to so they can stay on the path to graduation and be more college- and career-ready. Nebraska Virtual Scholars is particularly focused on expanding access for rural, low-income and other underrepresented students, and on ensuring that high-quality STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and other advanced coursework is available to all Nebraska students.
NU in August announced that it would award 150 scholarships this year. As has been the case in past phases of Virtual Scholars, demand for online courses exceeded the number of scholarships available. The university was able to fund all 212 qualifying scholarship requests.
In all, students from 35 Nebraska schools – most of them rural – will benefit.
“Providing all students with a high school curriculum that prepares them to be successful in college and their careers is a basis for Nebraska’s economic success,” said Interim President James Linder, M.D. “The Nebraska Virtual Scholars program meets an important educational need in our state, which is why we’re excited about our efforts that support Nebraska students – our state’s future workforce. I thank Nebraska schools for sharing with us how online learning can supplement the good work they are doing. Expanding Virtual Scholars to meet additional needs will be an important priority moving forward.”
Linder noted that Advanced Placement Calculus was the most-requested course this year, with other mathematics, science, social studies and world language courses also seeing high demand. Enhancing STEM education in Nebraska so that students are prepared for the 21st-century workforce is a key goal shared by state policymakers and education and business leaders. Many schools also demonstrated a need for online courses to supplement their regular curricula by addressing scheduling conflicts and reductions in staff or budgets. Schools also have indicated that online courses are a good option for serving transfer students and students who have fallen behind or are otherwise at risk.
For example, at Cozad High School, where about half of students are eligible for free or reduced lunch, University of Nebraska High School scholarships offer the opportunity for students to take online courses that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford.
“There hasn’t been a year or a semester when we haven’t had a student need,” said Cozad counselor Dustin Favinger. “Many times our students who can’t find those courses of interest at our school can’t go elsewhere due to financial resources. (Scholarships) are a wonderful thing to offer our students who don’t have the resources to pursue these options.”
The University of Nebraska High School’s full catalog of more than 100 core, elective and Advanced Placement courses was 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 350 are Nebraskans.
Following is a full list of high schools receiving scholarships through the Virtual Scholars program this year.
- Arthur County
- Bellevue East/West
- Fillmore Central
- Garden County
- Grand Island Northwest
- Heartland Lutheran
- High Plains
- Keya Paha
- Lincoln East
- Lincoln Lutheran
- Nebraska Christian
- Norfolk Catholic
- North Platte St. Patrick’s
- Omaha Central
- Omaha Christian Academy
- South Sioux City
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