What do you think of when someone mentions the state of Nebraska? Most likely, you probably think of corn—as the state is the third-largest producer of corn in the country—or a cornhusker—which is the University of Nebraska’s sports teams’ nickname.

What you may not know is the state offers great educational financial aid programs to a very large portion of its entire student base, not just to college students.

The financial aid is administered and handled by Nebraska’s Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education (CCPE) and it distributes educational financial aid funds accordingly from programs such as the Access College Early Scholarship Program, the Community College Gap Assistance Program and the Nebraska Opportunity Grant.

Access College Early Scholarship Program

The Access College Early Scholarship Program (ACE) is designed to assist qualified, low-income high school students when it comes to affording to enroll in Nebraska-college courses through dual enrollment or early enrollment.

Dual enrollment is when a student earns both high school credit and college credit at the same time for completing a singular class. Early enrollment is when a student enrolls into college one year or more before the traditional age of freshman college students, which is usually 18 years old.

The ACE Program was created in 2007 by the Nebraska Legislature and the Coordinating Commission reviews all ACE applications and selects students for the program accordingly.

To be eligible for the ACE Program, a student must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or legal U.S. resident
  • Be a Nebraska high school student
  • Complete and submit an ACE Program application
  • Be enrolled in an eligible dual enrollment or early enrollment course being taken for a grade from an eligible Nebraska postsecondary institution
  • Be approved to participate (or the student’s family must be approved to participate) in one of the following federal need-based programs:
    • Free or Reduced-Price Lunch Program
    • Supplemental Security Income
    • Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)
    • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
    • Special Supplemental Assistance Program (WIC)
      • The student must also be able to provide documentation proving approved participation in the program.
    • Or have experienced an extreme hardship that affects the student’s family’s income
      • The student must also be able to provide documentation proving an extreme hardship has taken place.
    • Or be participating in a designated Career Education Program as established by the Nebraska Department of Education

The scholarship funds cover tuition and mandatory fees for the approved courses. During the 2019-2020 academic year, nearly 2,500 students received ACE Program funds. Additionally, the average ACE Program scholarship amount was $248 which typically covers one course.

Community College Gap Assistance Program

The Community College Gap Assistance Program (CCGAP) was created to address a predicted job and labor shortage in Nebraska in the near future.

To combat the looming issue, Nebraska and the CCPE use the program to provide financial aid to low-income community college students who are taking for-credit or non-credit courses that will lead to a degree and employment in a high-need occupational field.

The CCGAP can be used at Nebraska’s six community colleges. The community colleges are in charge of recruiting and selecting students for the program and dispersing the appropriate amount of funds to them.

The in-demand, high-need occupational fields the program is designed to assist include financial services, transportation, warehousing, distribution logistics, precision metal manufacturing, biosciences, renewable energy, agriculture, food processing, business management, administrative services, software services, computer services, research and development, engineering services, health services, hospitality, tourism, construction and education.

To be eligible for the CCGAP, a student must:

  • Be a Kansas resident
  • Have a family income at or below 250% of the federal poverty guidelines
  • Be enrolled in and attend an eligible Nebraska community college
  • Be enrolled in an eligible program of study at the eligible Nebraska community college that:
    • Is not offered for-credit and is at least 16 contact hours in length or
    • Is offered for-credit but is less than the amount of contact hours that would make it eligible for federal Pell Grant funds or
    • Is aligned with training programs with stackable credentials that lead to a program awarding college credit, an associate degree, a diploma or a certificate in an in-demand occupation upon completion or
    • Does any of the following:
      • Offers a state-, nationally- or locally-recognized certificate
      • Offers prep for a professional exam or licensure
      • Provides endorsement for an existing credential or license
      • Represents recognized skill standards defined by an industrial sector
      • Offers a similar credential or training

If a student is chosen to participate in the CCGAP, they also have responsibilities they must uphold. These responsibilities include:

  • Maintaining regular contact with program staff to document the student’s academic progress
  • Signing any release forms to provide relevant information to program staff (if applicable)
  • Discussing and/or working through any issues that may arise with program staff when it comes to completing the program or gaining employment after completing the program
  • Attending all required courses regularly
  • Creating and developing a job-search plan with program staff
  • Completing program surveys (when called upon) from program staff after the completion of the program

The CCGAP funds can be used to cover a student’s tuition, direct training costs, required books, required equipment and fees for industry training services and background check services.

Nebraska Opportunity Grant

The Nebraska Opportunity Grant (NOG) is the only need-based financial aid program strictly for college students funded by the Cornhusker State itself.

To be eligible for NOG, a student must:

  • Be a Nebraska resident
  • Be a full-time or part-time undergraduate student
    • A full-time student is considered someone who completes at least 24 credit hours per academic year (or at least 12 credit hours per semester).
  • Attend an eligible Nebraska postsecondary institution
  • Be enrolled in an eligible program of study
  • Complete and file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) annually
  • Demonstrate a financial need for funding by having the minimum estimated family contribution amount (according to FAFSA)
  • Complete and file the NOG application if necessary
    • Some colleges and universities require a separate application and some do not.
    • It is best for the student to check with their school’s financial aid office to see if this step is necessary.
  • Maintain satisfactory academic progress in order to renew the award

NOG funds can be used to cover tuition and mandatory fees. The average NOG amount a student received during the 2019-2020 academic year was $1,446. During that same academic year, nearly 13,000 students received NOG funds, totaling around $18.7 million in financial aid.

Major Nebraska Colleges and Universities

While part of Nebraska is known as the “Breadbasket of America” due to its fertile soil which is ideal for growing crops, the Cornhusker State is also known for being home to outstanding colleges and universities. Some of these schools include:

  • Chadron State College in Chadron (public)
  • Creighton University in Omaha (private)
  • Hastings College in Hastings (private)
  • Peru State College in Peru (public)
  • Union College in Lincoln (private)
  • University of Nebraska in Lincoln (main campus) (public)
  • Wayne State College in Wayne (public)

Nebraska students nestled within its 77,358 sq. miles of land can look forward to receiving a higher education thanks to the state’s impactful educational financial aid programs.