Nebraska has work to do to achieve the eight goals of the P-16 Initiative, a statewide effort to improve student success from preschool through college.
The ambitious goals – such as improving Nebraska’s high school graduation rate to 90 percent, improving the college-going rate to the top 10 nationally, and providing affordable access to higher education – will require a statewide collaborative effort.
That’s why events such as the upcoming College Access Summit are critical to Nebraska’s ability to build a higher level of educational attainment among its citizens so they are prepared to compete in the global innovation economy.
University of Nebraska President James B. Milliken joined fellow P-16 leaders Gov. Dave Heineman and EducationQuest Foundation President and CEO Liz Koop this week to announce the College Access Summit, which will be held May 12, 2011, in Lincoln. They encouraged Nebraska education, government and business leaders to attend, so that the public and private sectors can collaborate on strategies to develop a highly educated workforce for the benefit of the state.
“Most leaders agree that educational attainment is the key to competitiveness in today’s global innovation economy,” Milliken said. “But in Nebraska, only 36 percent of people hold at least an associate’s degree. Another 265,000 Nebraskans have completed some college but have not earned a degree.
“Increasing our state’s level of educational attainment is among our highest priorities – and the College Access Summit is a great way to bring together the public and private sectors to develop strategies for building a more educated workforce and ensuring a bright future for Nebraska.”
Gov. Heineman said, “Nebraska’s P-16 committee is excited to host this discussion for Nebraska business and education leaders regarding expanding access to colleges and universities for high school graduates. This is one more example of our commitment to moving forward and getting more of our young people to attend college.”
The focus of the summit, to be hosted by the P-16 Initiative and EducationQuest Foundation, is “Building a Culture of College Access and Success in Nebraska.” Speakers include Dr. James Applegate, vice president of program development for the Lumina Foundation for Education; and Dr. Walter Bumphus, president and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges. Applegate will discuss how education efforts in Nebraska can help achieve the Lumina Foundation’s “Big Goal,” which is to increase the proportion of Americans with college degrees and credentials to 60 percent by the year 2025. Bumphus will talk about the role two-year colleges play in preparing students to be a part of the 21st-century workforce.
A number of other Nebraska education and business leaders also will be featured at the summit during discussions on the challenges of developing and retaining a college-educated workforce.
Koop pointed out that “college access” has a broad definition, including a student’s ability to afford college, find the school that best fits their needs, identify an area of academic interest, and successfully earn a degree.
P-16 leaders have been implementing strategies on many of those fronts. For example, they recently announced an initiative called “Go.Visit.College!” to encourage high school students to visit more campuses in Nebraska in order to find the right college, which increases the likelihood they will finish school.
Also, the university is actively involved in educating middle-school students about the academic requirements for college and the resources available to help them afford it, Milliken said. Resources include:
- Collegebound Nebraska, the university’s tuition-assistance program that allows qualifying students to attend NU and pay no tuition. Generally, a Nebraska student from a family of four with one in college and an income of about $53,000 or less will qualify.
- The College Preparatory Academy and KearneyBound! programs in Grand Island, Omaha, North Platte, Lexington and Kearney, which target promising low-income, first-generation high school students. The first wave of graduates of the programs are enrolled at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the University of Nebraska at Kearney this fall, where they have access to additional mentoring and support services to help them succeed.
- A number of privately funded financial aid programs, such as those offered through the Susan T. Buffett Foundation. Milliken also noted that in 2009-2010, more than 11,200 scholarships were awarded to NU students from funds gifted to the University of Nebraska Foundation.
The university is expanding access in other ways as well, such as through Online Worldwide, its distance-education platform. NU announced recently that online learning grew 30 percent last year, an indication the university is making education available to more people in Nebraska and beyond.