Dear Fellow Nebraskans:
Higher education is important. Whether looking at a technical school, community college, or a state college or university, I encourage counselors, principals, mentors and all those who work with Nebraska's youth to join me in sharing the message that if students work hard, college is possible. Collegebound Nebraska Week begins Oct. 21 and provides an opportunity to encourage students and their families to begin planning for college.
Education is one of my top priorities. Studies show that within a few years, two-thirds of all jobs in our state will require education beyond high school. A college degree is now recognized as the best path toward a good job and the middle class. If we want to keep Nebraska's economy strong, we need to encourage high school and middle school students to pursue higher education.
Recently, I announced that Nebraska is ranked seventh in the nation in the percentage of high school graduates who go to college. Our college-going rate has improved to 69.5 percent. While we can be proud of our top 10 ranking, there is still room to improve and we will need even more college-educated workers in Nebraska to meet the workforce demands of the near future.
Nebraska students and families are fortunate that our state has made the accessibility of an affordable, quality education a priority. Nebraskans have many outstanding colleges and universities to attend.
I also encourage Nebraskans to seek out the great resource available to them through EducationQuest Foundation. EducationQuest is a Nebraska-based nonprofit organization that provides free services and programs to help Nebraskans make college possible.
Annually, EducationQuest shares fall college fair information on their website, and I encourage students and families to explore their options. This year, there have been several fairs throughout the state in Grand Island, Norfolk, South Sioux City, and the Scottsbluff/Gering area. These fairs have brought out many families and students interested in important college information.
When families are attending college fairs, they should think about what kind of college would be the best fit for them -- small, large, rural or metropolitan. They should also be prepared to ask questions about the types of extracurricular activities, housing, and other issues that are important to them in selecting a school.
There are many financial aid resources available to students and families that help them afford a college education. The University of Nebraska's Collegebound Nebraska program is a great example. Collegebound Nebraska guarantees that students in our state who meet admissions requirements and who are awarded a federal Pell Grant can attend the University of Nebraska and pay no tuition.
This year, approximately 6,700 students at the University of Nebraska -- almost a quarter of Nebraska undergraduates at the university -- meet the Collegebound Nebraska promise. Many more students could achieve their dream of attending college with help from Collegebound Nebraska, and I encourage Nebraskans to visit collegeboundnebraska.com to learn more.
I hope Nebraskans will take advantage of the opportunity Collegebound Nebraska Week provides to remind students that they can go to college and that help is available.
- Dave Heineman