Nebraska P-16, higher ed leaders encourage students to “Go Visit College”

College-bound students: When you’re visiting a prospective school, be sure to eat in the campus dining hall. You need to be sure the food is good, right?

That was among the tips offered by Matt Moore, a University of Nebraska student and campus tour guide, this week during a statewide event to promote college visits among prospective students and their parents.

The initiative – Go.Visit.College! – is led by EducationQuest Foundation and is tied to Nebraska’s P-16 Initiative, chaired by Gov. Dave Heineman, which focuses on improving educational outcomes in the state. University of Nebraska President James B. Milliken is a P-16 co-chair focusing on goals to increase Nebraska’s college-going rate, expand affordable access to higher education, and improve time to degree completion among Nebraska’s college students.

As part of their joint appearance to promote college visits, Governor Heineman and Nebraska higher education leaders announced that the state is now achieving its goal to have a top-10 college-going rate. About 69.5 percent of Nebraska high school graduates now continue on to college – up from about 64.5 percent in 2009 and ranking the state seventh in the country.

“A key factor in achieving and sustaining our ranking is for students to visit a college or colleges of their choice,” Governor Heineman said. “A college education is more important now than ever before.”

Milliken said, “As the parent of college-aged children myself, I am a strong believe 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.”

Rounding out the top five tips offered by Moore, a senior secondary education major from Omaha attending NU’s Lincoln campus:

  • Explore on your own.
    See as much of the campus as you can to determine whether it feels like a good fit.

  • Bring a notebook.
    You’re going to pumped full of information and you won’t be able to remember it all. Take lots of notes so you’ll be able to refer back to the details later and compare institutions.

  • Talk with as many faculty, staff and students as you can while you’re on campus.
    These are the people who can provide real insight about the daily life of the institution.

  • Ask lots of questions.
    A about cost, financial aid, academics, extracurriculars or whatever you’re curious about. Employees and students want to help you learn about their school. Now is your chance, so don’t be shy!

“The campus visit is an important part of choosing any college,” Moore said. “As a campus guide myself, I understand the importance of allowing students to experience a college campus to determine where they would like to attend school.”

Moore noted that while many campus visitors are high school students, he also gives tours to middle school students – an important strategy that helps them visualize themselves as college students someday.

Plenty of financial aid available

One reason that some students don’t apply for college is that they don’t believe they can afford it. But, Milliken noted that Nebraska is in a better position than many other states, with stable funding from the state for public higher education that has allowed the university to maintain its commitment to moderate, predictable tuition increases. Because of increased investment in higher education approved this year by the Legislature and Governor, NU, along with the Nebraska State College System and community colleges, will freeze resident tuition for the next two years.

Even before the tuition freeze, tuition rates at all four NU campuses were well below the peer average. Student debt levels also are at or below the peer averages. The university has made record investments in need-based financial aid, including Collegebound Nebraska, which guarantees that students with the highest need can attend NU and pay no tuition. More than 6,600 NU students are currently eligible for Collegebound Nebraska. In all, more than half of all University of Nebraska undergraduates receive financial aid.

Prospective students can receive information on scholarships and financial aid for all of Nebraska’s higher education institutions at EducationQuest Foundation, which since 2006 has awarded $2.5 million in College Access Grants to Nebraska high schools to fund activities such as college visits.

“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,” said Liz Koop, president and CEO of EducationQuest and a P-16 co-chair. “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.”

Koop added, “While we’re excited about the increase in the state’s college-going rate, it’s still not good enough.”

Besides Milliken and Koop, P-16 Initiative co-chairs are Nebraska Sen. Kate Sullivan, chair of the Legislature’s Education Committee, and Scott Swisher, deputy commissioner of the Nebraska Department of Education.

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