The Coordinating Commission approved the 2018 Tuition, Fees, and College Affordability Report at its September 11, 2018, meeting. Nebraska law requires that a report on tuition and fees at public colleges and universities be submitted to the Governor and the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee every other year. The 2018 report is a substantial update from previous reports with a broad focus on college affordability as well as tuition and fees. The report makes comparisons between Nebraska and all other states and between Nebraska institutions and their Coordinating Commission-approved peer institutions. Measures for comparison include historical tuition and fees, state and local tax support, sources of financial aid and numbers of recipients, measures of cost of attendance and net price of attendance after grants and scholarships, and information on graduate and nonresident tuition and fees.
The report finds that:
- Tuition and fees at Nebraska’s public colleges and universities, while increasing, remain moderate compared to other states and peer institutions.
- While state tax funds for public postsecondary education in Nebraska have been reduced several times recently due to state revenue shortfalls, Nebraska continues to support its public institutions better than most states, which translates into moderate tuition and fees.
- Nebraska’s need-based student aid program, the Nebraska Opportunity Grant, is among the smallest in the United States.
- Net price to students, after applying grants and scholarships to their bills, continues to increase, putting pressure on students to work more hours and borrow to finance their education.
In order to maintain and improve affordability for Nebraska college students, the report makes the following recommendations:
- Maintain adequate levels of state appropriations for Nebraska public postsecondary institutions so they can fulfill their various missions while remaining affordable.
- Increase funding for the Nebraska Opportunity Grant, which provides grant aid to low-income students.
- Increase funding for the Access College Early Scholarship, which provides scholarships to needy high school students who enroll in classes that grant high school and college credit.
- Extend the Community College Gap Assistance program, which provides funding for low-income students in non-credit occupational training, to for-credit occupational training that does not qualify for federal Pell Grants due to program length. This change would require no new state funding.
- Consider adopting best practices from other states to make postsecondary education more affordable for adult students, such as the Tennessee Reconnect scholarship program and recognition of prior learning and military training for college credit.
At the same meeting, the Coordinating Commission adopted its 2019-2021 biennial budget request, which includes an additional $3 million for the Nebraska Opportunity Grant and additional $210,000 for the Access College Early Scholarship over the biennium.