Virtual Scholars program expands educational opportunities for students across Nebraska

Students across Nebraska – many of them in rural districts – will be able to supplement their education with free online courses from the University of Nebraska High School this year as a result of NU’s 2013 Nebraska Virtual Scholars program.

The university announced today the recipients of 100 University of Nebraska High School course scholarships made available through Virtual Scholars. The program – which was first offered in 2011 and continued this year – aims to create opportunities for the university to work with high school administrators, particularly in rural Nebraska, to identify educational challenges that could be addressed through online education.

“The Virtual Scholars program generated tremendous responses from around the state,” NU President James B. Milliken said. “We heard from schools facing budgetary and staffing constraints, schools that couldn’t offer advanced coursework to qualified students, and schools that needed flexible options to help keep their students on the path to graduation – to name a few. We’re proud to be able to partner with Nebraska schools and build on the good work being done there to meet some of these critical needs. The Nebraska Virtual Scholars program will not address all of the state’s educational challenges, but it is certainly a positive step.”

Milliken noted that the university received applications for more than 200 course scholarships – double the number of scholarships available. That demonstrates the high demand among Nebraska schools for additional course options to supplement their curricula, Milliken said.

Schools most commonly sought scholarships for math and science, career education and language courses, though other core and elective courses such as art and economics also were requested. Key challenges identified by schools included a need for more Advanced Placement and upper-level STEM courses, a need to serve transfer students and students who have fallen behind or are otherwise at risk, reductions in staff and budgets, and scheduling conflicts posed by limited course availability.

One school, for example, wanted to be able to offer a physics course to a student who wants to study aeronautics in college. Another had limited ability to provide flexible alternatives for students who had fallen behind but wanted to get back on the path to graduation.

Both of those schools are among this year’s scholarship recipients. Recipient schools, and the counties in which they are located, are:

  • Bellevue East & West high schools (Sarpy)
  • Clarkson High School (Colfax)
  • Creek Valley High School (Deuel)
  • Doniphan-Trumbull High School (Hall)
  • Freeman High School (Gage)
  • Garden County High School (Garden)
  • Hastings St. Cecilia High School (Adams)
  • Humphrey High School (Platte)
  • Morrill High School (Scottsbluff)
  • North Platte St. Patrick High School (Lincoln)
  • Pierce High School (Pierce)
  • Re-Connect program, Scottsbluff Public Schools (Scottsbluff)
  • South Sioux City High School (Dakota)

Schools were required to submit an application that included an explanation of their current challenge, a brief description of how the Virtual Scholars program could address the challenge, and plans for on-site support plan and measurement of the impact of the program.

“Schools demonstrated a real need for additional online courses offerings, and selecting the limited number of scholarship recipients wasn’t easy,” said Barbara Wolf Shousha, director of the University of Nebraska High School. “We were most interested in supporting rural and underserved student populations and schools with limited curricula. We’re grateful to Nebraska school administrators for telling us about their needs, and we look forward to continuing to work with them and with state policymakers to ensure that all Nebraska students have access to high-quality, rigorous coursework that will prepare them for college and their careers.”

The University of Nebraska High School, part of University of Nebraska Online Worldwide, currently serves more than 2,400 students, 250 of whom are from Nebraska. Scholarships provided through the Virtual Scholars program will cover tuition, fees and course materials. The standard cost for Nebraska residents for University of Nebraska High School courses is $194 plus materials per one-semester course.

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