The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce predicts that 71 percent of Nebraska jobs will require at least some postsecondary education by 2020.
The Community College Gap Assistance Program aims to address this looming shortage by offering financial aid to community college students taking non-credit courses that could lead to jobs in high-need fields. These are low-income students who would not be eligible for federal financial aid because, although they’re enrolled in college, they are not enrolled in courses for credit that lead directly to a degree.
Sen. Kate Bolz of Lincoln championed legislation that created the Gap Program during the 2015 Nebraska Legislative session. The program began July 1, 2016, and will receive 9 percent of the available Nebraska Lottery funds set aside for education every year. This equates to about $1.4 million for FY 2016-17.
Gap Program funds are distributed to the state’s six community colleges, which recruit and select eligible low-income students in eligible programs to receive grants. Eligible students must have a family income at or below 250 percent of federal poverty guidelines. Student grants can be used for tuition, direct training costs, required books and equipment, and fees, including those for industry testing services and background check services.
Legislation defines eligible programs as: “…a program offered by a community college that is not offered for credit but is aligned with training programs with stackable credentials that lead to a program awarding college credit, an associate's degree, a diploma, or a certificate in an in-demand occupation, has a duration of not less than sixteen contact hours in length, and does any of the following:
- Offers a state, national, or locally recognized certificate;
- Offers preparation for a professional examination or licensure;
- Provides endorsement for an existing credential or license;
- Represents recognized skill standards defined by an industrial sector; or
- Offers a similar credential or training.”
The legislation specifies in-demand occupations to include:
- Financial services
- Transportation, warehousing, and distribution logistics
- Precision metals manufacturing
- Renewable energy
- Agriculture and food processing
- Business management and administrative services
- Software and computer services
- Research, development, and engineering services
- Health services
- Hospitality and tourism
The Coordinating Commission administers the program, which is under the direction of the Nebraska Community College Student Performance and Occupational Education Grant Committee. The committee can designate additional in-demand occupations that are eligible for the program.
The Coordinating Commission serves as chair of the committee, which consists of representatives from the community colleges, the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, the Nebraska Department of Labor, and the Nebraska Department of Education. The committee will develop an application tracking system; coordinate statewide oversight and evaluation of the program; and meet at least quarterly as part of these efforts. Performance measures will include eligible program completion rates, job attainment rates, and continuing education rates.
For more information, contact Ben Civic, CCPE Occupational Education Specialist, at 402-471-0026 or firstname.lastname@example.org