New reports on the Access College Early Scholarship and the Nebraska Opportunity Grant reviewed by the Coordinating Commission at its January 25, 2018, meeting highlight the value of the programs for providing affordable college access to low-income Nebraska students.
The Access College Early Scholarship program served 2,157 low-income high school students enrolled in over 4,000 college credit courses in 2016-17 at a cost of $947,076. The students demonstrated that they were up to the challenge of college-level work as they overwhelmingly received A’s and B’s in their college courses, saving them time and money when they enroll in college and transfer their credits. Nationally, taking college-level courses while in high school has been shown to lead to higher high school graduation rates, greater rates of enrollment in college, and higher rates of retention after the first year in college. Research carried out by Dr. Duncan Hsu of the Coordinating Commission shows that 81 percent of students who receive Access College Early Scholarships continue to college within a year of graduating from high school compared to 53 percent of low-income students who do not receive the scholarships.
The Nebraska Opportunity Grant served nearly 13,000 low-income Nebraska undergraduates in 2016-17 with an average award of $1,306. Students can use the grants, which are awarded through their colleges, to pay for tuition and fees and other college-related expenses at both public and private Nebraska colleges and universities while they pursue certificates, associate’s degrees, and bachelor’s degrees. Eligibility for Nebraska Opportunity Grants is determined using information students submit on the Free Application for Federal Student Assistance; there is no separate application. The grant is funded through a combination of $6.9 million from the state’s General fund and $10 million from proceeds from the Nebraska Lottery. The report also points out that only 37 percent of the 35,178 eligible students received awards in 2016-17 due to funding constraints.