Legislature considering full slate of higher-ed bills

capitolThe Nebraska Unicameral has been in session since the first week of January. Since then, senators have introduced more than 20 bills that would directly impact higher-education in Nebraska.

The Commission is required by statute to recommend legislation deemed necessary to improve higher education in Nebraska, as well as to provide information and advice to the Legislature.

During the legislative session, the Commission regularly produces a Legislative Update that tracks higher-ed bills of interest, including those proposed by the Commission.

ITQ grant program benefits teachers across the state

The Coordinating Commission at its Jan. 24 meeting voted to fund through a federal grant program four projects designed to improve teachers’ content knowledge and professional skills.

The Commission administers the Improving Teacher Quality (ITQ) grants for Nebraska. These grants are designed 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.

Civic joins Commission as new director of College Access Challenge Grant

Ben Civic has joined the Coordinating Commission as its new director of the College Access Challenge Grant.

Civic, a Rhode Island native, earned his bachelor’s degree in Finance from the University of Colorado at Boulder and his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Nebraska College of Law. Civic brings a variety of experience to the Commission, including time spent as a federal grain inspector and a legal intern at The Mediation Center.

The College Access Challenge Grant is a federally funded program designed to increase the number of underrepresented students who enter and remain in postsecondary education. The Governor has designated the Coordinating Commission as the State of Nebraska’s administer of this grant.

Civic also will administer the Commission’s ACE Plus scholarship program as part of his duties.

Commission submits higher-ed budget, capital construction recommendations to Governor, Legislature

The Coordinating Commission recently submitted to the Governor and Legislature its postsecondary operating budget and capital construction recommendations for the 2013-15 biennium.

The commission has constitutional responsibility to review and modify the biennial budget requests of Nebraska‟s public postsecondary institutions and make recommendations on those requests to the Governor and Legislature. Through this review, the commission can assure consistency with the Comprehensive Statewide Plan for Higher Education and promote effective use of state funds in support of public postsecondary education in Nebraska. The Commission reviews budgets and makes its recommendations in October of every even-numbered year.

Similarly, the commission reviews the biennial capital construction requests of the University of Nebraska, the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture and the Nebraska State College System. With its statewide perspective, the commission provides a unified prioritization of all approved capital construction requests. The commission makes these recommendations to the Governor and Legislature at the same time it makes recommendations on budget requests.

Both the budget and the capital construction reports are now available on the commission website.

Commission releases report on faculty and salaries

The Coordinating Commission recently released Section C of its annual Factual Look at Higher Education in Nebraska. Section C analyzes the numbers of full-time instructional faculty and the average salaries of full-time instructional faculty at Nebraska’s public and independent postsecondary institutions. It does not include for-profit/career schools.

Among the findings of Section C:

  • At the University of Nebraska, state colleges and the independent institutions, from fall 2001 to fall 2011, there were 99 more professors, 62 more instructors and 64 more lecturers but only 18 more associate professors and 44 fewer assistant professors.
  • Between fall 2001 and fall 2011, total fall enrollment increased 24.9% while full-time instructional faculty increased only 8.9%.
  • Between 2001 and 2011, the average salary of full-time faculty at the University of Nebraska campuses decreased 1%. (Factoring in inflation)
  • Meanwhile, the salaries increased at the State College System (4.3%), the community colleges (6.7%) and the independent schools (2.9%).
  • There is a continuing gap between the average salaries received by male and female full-time instructional faculty.

The full Section C is available now on the commission’s website.

ACE scholarship program helps more than 1,700 low-income Nebraska students

The Coordinating Commission in 2011-12 awarded more than $780,000 in scholarships to low-income Nebraska high school students through the Access College Early (ACE)  scholarship program. The scholarships cover tuition and mandatory fees for these students to take college courses from participating Nebraska colleges and universities, either through dual enrollment or early enrollment agreements.

Some more ACE numbers from 2011-12:

  • 1,706 students received at least one ACE scholarship. (One scholarship pays for one course; some students apply for and receive multiple scholarships.)
  • 2,314 scholarships were awarded.
  • Scholarships allowed these low-income students to complete 3,214 courses equaling 10,889 credit hours of college course work.
  • Of the grades received by these students, 75.6% earned an A or B.
  • Students from 216 Nebraska high schools received an ACE scholarship.

More information on the ACE scholarship is available on the commission website. A more detailed breakdown of the 2011-12 scholarship distribution also is available.

ACE application goes completely online

Applying for the Access College Early (ACE) scholarship is now even easier.

The Coordinating Commission, which administers the program, has converted the ACE application from a manual to a completely online process. Participating students, guidance counselors and college representatives can access the new application from the main ACE page on the commission website.

The commission awards more than 2,000 ACE scholarship awards annually to low-income Nebraska high-school students who enroll in courses at Nebraska’s eligible colleges and universities.