New reports on the Access College Early Scholarship, the Nebraska Opportunity Grant, and the Community College Gap Assistance Program, reviewed by the Coordinating Commission at its January 24, 2019, meeting highlight the value of the programs for providing affordable college access to low-income Nebraska students.
The Access College Early Scholarship program served 2,456 low-income high school students enrolled in over 3,700 college credit courses in 2017-18 at a cost of $914,907. 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 the Coordinating Commission shows that 84 percent of public high school students who receive Access College Early Scholarships continue to college within a year of graduating from high school compared to 52 percent of low-income students who do not receive the scholarships.
The Nebraska Opportunity Grant served nearly 13,000 low-income Nebraska undergraduates in 2017-18 with an average award of $1,354. 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 $6.7 million from the state’s General fund and $10.7 million from proceeds from the Nebraska Lottery. The report also points out that only 35.7 percent of the 36,028 eligible students received awards in 2017-18 due to funding constraints.
In 2017-18, its second year of operation, the Community College Gap Assistance Program served 178 low-income students enrolled in non-credit training programs in in-demand occupations at Nebraska’s community colleges. The program covers tuition, direct training costs, required books and equipment, and fees – including fees for industry testing services and background check services -- for Nebraska residents with a family income at or below 250% of federal poverty guidelines. Students can select from 349 programs in 12 in-demand occupational areas. Top in-demand programs completed by students in 2017-18 were in transportation, warehousing, and logistics; construction; health services; and precision metals manufacturing.