On March 10, the Coordinating Commission reviewed and approved the 2023 Nebraska Higher Education Progress Report, which includes a wide variety of comparative measures over the past decade to monitor and evaluate progress toward achieving three priorities for Nebraska's postsecondary education system:
- Increase the number of students who enter postsecondary education in Nebraska.
- Increase the percentage of students who persist and successfully complete a degree.
- Reduce, eliminate, and then reverse the net out-migration of Nebraskans with high levels of educational attainment.
The priorities were set by the Nebraska Legislature, and the Coordinating Commission is required to report on progress related to the priorities annually. The Progress Report includes sections on high school graduation rates, college continuation rates, financial aid, college transfer rates, college graduation rates, and migration of Nebraskans to other states. Data are disaggregated by institutional sector – public 4-year; public 2-yr; and non-public colleges and universities – and by race/ethnicity, gender, and income when available.
The report finds that only 66.6% of 2021-21 Nebraska public high school graduates continued their studies in a postsecondary institution, the lowest percentage in a decade and a significant decline from 70.6% continuation for 2017-18 graduates. Continuation rates in Nebraska, like other states, likely continue to be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic’s disruption to schooling. Once in college, Nebraska’s public two- and four-year institutions continue to graduate students at higher rates than the national averages.
One of the report's key findings is that the gap in educational attainment between white and minority Nebraskans remains high. In 2021, 57.8% of white 25- to 34-year-olds had an Associate’s degree or higher compared to 40.6% for African Americans, 27.3% for Hispanics, and 15.8% of Native Americans. Asian and Pacific Islanders had the highest attainment at 64.7%. The report also finds that Nebraska is making slow progress toward the 70% educational attainment goal for 25- to 34-year-olds set by the Nebraska Legislature in 2022, with credential attainment rising from 58.4% in 2019 to 58.8% in 2021.
The report includes numerous recommendations that address identified areas for improvement, including increasing dual credit opportunities, developing additional career academies, increasing academic and career counseling at both high schools and postsecondary institutions, re-enrolling adult students with some college experience but no degree, supporting state financial aid programs, and supporting the growth and development of the Nebraska Career Scholarship Program.