Today, Gov. Dave Heineman was joined by fellow leaders of the Nebraska P-16 Initiative and higher education leaders from across the state to highlight the importance of students visiting college and university campuses as part of the college planning process. Joining the Governor were University of Nebraska President, J.B. Milliken, Chancellor of the Nebraska State Colleges, Stan Carpenter, Southeast Community College President, Dr. Jack Huck, Doane College President, Dr. Jacque Carter, and a University of Nebraska -- Lincoln student, Matt Moore of Omaha.
"Nebraska is now ranked 7th in the nation as a college going rate, which is right in line with our P-16 goals," said Gov. Heineman. "A key factor in achieving and sustaining our ranking is for students to visit a college or colleges of their choice. A college education is more important now than ever before"
The annual "Go Visit College' effort encourages more Nebraska schools and postsecondary education institutions to collaborate in organizing opportunities for high school and middle school students to visit campuses.
For the past four years, the Governor and Nebraska P-16 co-chairs have focused efforts on eight education goals designed to strengthen K-12 and higher education in the state. Among the goals is improving Nebraska's college-going rate to the top 10 tier nationally. P-16 goal leaders addressing the college-going rate challenge are Liz Koop, President and CEO of EducationQuest Foundation, and James B. Milliken, President of the University of Nebraska.
When Nebraska P-16 announced the education goals in 2009, Nebraska was ranked 19th in the nation with 64.5 percent of Nebraska students continuing on to college. According to the most recent data available, Nebraska is now ranked 7th in the nation with a college continuation rate of 69.5 percent*.
"While we're excited about the increase in the state's college-going rate, it's still not good enough," Koop said.
Koop continued, "Visiting a college campus is a vital first-step for students in pursuing education beyond high school -- and it's a critical step in helping them find the school that's the right fit. We have also found that students who didn't think they would go to college often change their perception after stepping foot on a college campus. EducationQuest feels so strongly about the importance of campus visits that we have provided funding to Nebraska high schools and middle schools to support this effort."
Since 2006, EducationQuest has awarded $2.5 million in College Access Grants to 51 Nebraska high schools to fund college access activities including campus visits. Over the past two years, the foundation awarded nearly $50,000 in Eighth Grade College Visit Grants to 77 Nebraska schools to fund campus visits for eighth graders.
Milliken said, "As the parent of college-aged children myself, I am a strong believer that campus visits are a critical early step for students in selecting a school that best meets their needs. Students who choose a school that fits are in a much better position to have a positive college experience and complete their degrees. Nebraska is home to many high-quality colleges and universities, and I encourage students and their families to visit as many of them as they can."
"College visits are critically important for students and their parents," said Carpenter. "Finding the right institution to start one's academic career affects students and their families for the rest of their lives. Even though high school students today rely on technology a lot more than I ever did, or do today, college visits provide insight that is more straightforward than relying on a brochure or a college website."
"While our recruiting staff makes countless face-to-face contacts with prospective students, which are very important in the college search process, we've also added virtual tours to our website which students can take," Huck said. "But there is no substitute for on-campus visits. They are so important for students to actually connect with the college campus that they're planning to attend. The campus visit solidifies the atmosphere and relationship for each of those students."
"Visiting a college or university campus is an important first step in finding out how student-centered and student-friendly our campuses are," said Carter. "It is especially important for first-generation college students who might have uncertainty about whether they can attain a college degree."
University of Nebraska -- Lincoln student, Matt Moore said, "A student should choose a college based on the fit that is most comfortable. The experience should be unforgettable and exciting."
Nebraska P-16 is a coalition of 27 Nebraska education, business and government groups committed to improving student success rates at all levels, from preschool through college and beyond.
Gov. Dave Heineman serves as Nebraska P-16 chairman with four key state education leaders serving as co-chairs, including: State Sen. Kate Sullivan, Chairman of the Legislature's Education Committee, and Dr. Scott Swisher, Deputy Commissioner of the Nebraska Department of Education, as well as Milliken and Koop.