Nebraska joins national distance learning agreement; CCPE to serve as portal agency

Nebraska has been approved for participation in a national reciprocity agreement that will streamline the process for institutions to offer distance learning courses to out-of-state students.

The State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) is an agreement among member states that establishes comparable national standards for interstate offering of postsecondary distance education courses and programs. It is intended to make it easier for students to take online courses offered by postsecondary institutions based in another state. SARA is overseen by the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA) and administered by four regional education compacts—the Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC), in Nebraska’s case.

Nebraska legislation has designated the Coordinating Commission as the state’s portal agency for SARA, meaning Nebraska institutions will apply to the Coordinating Commission to participate. Once approved, the institutions can offer distance learning courses to students from states also participating in SARA. Without SARA, institutions must apply to each state for approval before they can offer distance-learning courses to its residents.

Nebraska, through the Coordinating Commission, received approval to participate in SARA from MHEC’s Executive Committee and now becomes the eighth state in the country to join SARA.

Nebraska institutions can apply to participate in SARA via the Coordinating Commission’s website at ccpe.state.ne.us/SARA.

SARA is funded by a $2.3 million grant from Lumina Foundation, an independent, private foundation committed to increasing the proportion of Americans with high-quality degrees, certificates and other credentials to 60 percent by 2025.

For more information on Nebraska’s participation in SARA, please contact Jason Keese at the Coordinating Commission: 402-471-0023 or jason.keese@nebraska.gov

Commission hires Baumgartner as new Executive Director

Baumgartner

Baumgartner

Nebraska’s Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education has hired Dr. Michael Baumgartner as its next Executive Director.

The Commission voted unanimously to hire Baumgartner after interviewing him in Lincoln on July 11.

Baumgartner currently serves as Chief Financial Officer for Complete College America, a national nonprofit organization that works with states to increase the number of Americans with quality career certificates or college degrees and to close attainment gaps for traditionally underrepresented populations.

Prior to joining Complete College America in 2011, Baumgartner was Executive Deputy Director at the Illinois Board of Higher Education, where he was responsible for the Board’s planning, budgeting, information systems, grants, and office financial administration functions, including the supervision of the fiscal affairs staff, the information systems staff, the grants staff, and the fiscal officer. Before Illinois, Baumgartner served as Associate Director for Facilities and Financial Affairs at the Indiana Commission for Higher Education from 2000 to 2005.

He earned his Ph.D. in Political Science from Indiana University, Bloomington, his M.A. in Political Science from Ohio State University, and his B.A. in Political Science from the University of Missouri, Columbia.

Baumgartner replaces Dr. Marshall Hill, who resigned in August 2013 to become executive director of the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements. Dr. Carna Pfeil has served as Interim Executive Director since Hill’s departure. Prior to this, Pfeil was the Commission’s Associate Director for Finance and Administration.

Baumgartner’s start date is still being negotiated.

New report focuses on enrollment, tuition and fees, and financial aid

The Commission recently approved the latest of many reports it issues, Nebraska Postsecondary Enrollment, Tuition & Fees, and Financial Aid: 2013 Supplemental Data Report

This report focuses on enrollment, tuition and fees, and financial aid for Nebraska’s public postsecondary institutions. A few of the report’s key findings:

  • Overall enrollment in Nebraska, despite an increase during the previous decade, has stagnated and even declined during the past few years. This mirrors a nationwide trend.
  • Tuition rates at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln grew at an average annual rate of 8.7 percent from 2003 to 2012. For the 2013-14 and 2014-15 academic years, the University of Nebraska and State College System have instituted a tuition rate freeze.
  • Although Nebraska residents represent 86 percent of the students receiving financial aid at public institutions, they receive 76 percent of the financial aid granted.

The Commission approved the report at its May 1 meeting.

Visit the Commission’s website for a full listing of its reports and presentations.

 

Final “Legislative Update” offers rundown of session’s higher-ed bills

The Nebraska Legislature adjourned April 17 after debating and passing numerous higher-education bills. The Coordinating Commission offered testimony on 10 bills and monitored their progress throughout the session. The Commission also worked with several senators and their staff as they researched and drafted legislation.

Read a more detailed summary of the Legislature’s higher-ed bills in the Commission’s final Legislative Update of the 2014 session.

CCPE begins search for new executive director

The Coordinating Commission has formally begun its search process for a new executive director.

The Commission is filling the vacancy left by Dr. Marshall Hill, who resigned in August 2013 to accept another higher-education position in Colorado. Since then, Dr. Carna Pfeil has served as the Commission’s interim executive director. Pfeil was associate director for finance and administration and has been with the Commission for more than 20 years.

Those interested in learning more about the executive director position and the search process should visit the Commission’s website.

 

Commission awards grants to assist K-12 teachers

The Coordinating Commission recently voted to fund four projects through a U.S. Department of Education grant program designed to improve K-12 teachers’ content knowledge and professional skills.

The Commission administers the Improving Teacher Quality (ITQ) grants for Nebraska. These grants are intended to help increase student achievement by providing educators with professional development activities to improve their knowledge and teaching skills.

The grants provide funds to partnerships established between Nebraska postsecondary institutions and high-need, low-income local education agencies (LEAs), most often school districts. The partners use the funds for specific projects pertaining to core academic subjects.

A full list and descriptions of the selected programs, as well as the funding they’ll receive, can be found on the Commission website. Programs will benefit teachers from school districts across the state.

An evaluation panel with members from Nebraska high schools and the State Department of Education met in December at the Commission office in Lincoln. Fifteen proposals were submitted by partnerships that involved three different institutions (University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Nebraska at Omaha and Nebraska Wesleyan University), Nebraska Educational Technology Association, and a variety of school districts and educational service units (ESUs). The Commission at its Jan. 23 meeting voted to approve the panel’s recommended projects to fund.

This was the largest number of proposals the Commission has received in more than a dozen years. Unfortunately, the funds available were reduced, primarily due to federal sequestration, forcing the panel to select only four projects out of a pool of many quality proposals. At this time, the total amount of funds available for awards in 2013-2014 is $294,145.

Commission offers testimony on higher-ed bills considered by Legislature

The Coordinating Commission offered testimony on 10 higher-education-related bills currently being considered by the State Legislature. Interim Executive Director Carna Pfeil spoke on behalf of the commission for five of the bills; the commission submitted testimony in letter form for the others. Below is a brief description of those bills, as well as a link to the commission’s submitted testimony.

  • LB 779Neutral – Changes duties of CCPE relating to transfer-of-credit policies
  • LB 781Neutral – Change a date relating to a community college comprehensive audit
  • LB 787Proponent – Provide an income-tax deduction for loan principal payments on graduate degrees
  • LB 826Proponent – Provide for a study relating to education incentives for high-need occupations
  • LB 835Neutral – Extend a pilot project relating to college entrance exams (ACT)
  • LB 1055Proponent – Provide for tuition-free credits for veterans and military personnel as prescribed
  • LB 1069Proponent – Change provisions relating to private postsecondary career schools
  • LB 1077Neutral – Adopt the Shared Responsibility for Access and Success Act (financial aid)
  • LB 1103Proponent – Provide for a strategic planning process for education
  • LB 1106Proponent – Change provisions relating to career academies

The Legislature is scheduled to finish its 60-day session on April 17.