New round of Virtual Scholars program to address needs of Nebraska students, schools

University of Nebraska President Hank Bounds announced today that the university will continue its widely used Nebraska Virtual Scholars program in 2015-16 by offering 150 scholarships to schools in the state for their students to take courses from the University of Nebraska High School for free. Through the scholarships, the university aims to supplement the work of Nebraska schools in addressing critical issues that impact students, including timely graduation, access to courses, scheduling challenges and college and career readiness.

Nebraska schools can apply for the scholarships on behalf of their students beginning today. All Nebraska high schools are eligible to apply. Applications will be accepted through Oct. 2, with recipients announced by Oct. 9.

“A student’s college education begins long before he or she sets foot on a campus,” Bounds said. “It’s vital that we work hand-in-hand with our early childhood and K-12 education partners to make sure students are prepared to be successful in college, their careers and in life. Nebraska Virtual Scholars is one such partnership. This program has expanded access for hundreds of Nebraska high school students and from what we’ve heard from schools, it is clear Virtual Scholars is making a difference. I’m pleased to continue to supplement the good work of educators across our state through Nebraska Virtual Scholars. I hope schools will take advantage of this opportunity.”

This year marks the fourth phase of Nebraska Virtual Scholars, which the university first launched in 2011 as a way to expand access to online courses for Nebraska high schools and their students to help them be more college- and career-ready. Since then, the program has provided scholarships for students around the state – most of them from rural schools – to take core, elective and advanced courses that they may not otherwise have had access to. Nebraska Virtual Scholars also has created opportunities for the university to work with school administrators to identify challenges they are facing that could be addressed through online education.

Schools are asked to apply for scholarships to solve specific issues facing their students. For example, they may want to use the scholarships to expand their curriculum offerings, or expand course sections in order to meet student demand or solve staffing challenges. Scholarships may be used for any of the University of Nebraska High School’s full course catalog of more than 100 core, elective and Advanced Placement courses.

Last year the university received more than 200 applications for the 150 Virtual Scholars awards it had announced. Schools most commonly sought scholarships for math, science, social studies and language courses. The most requested course was AP Calculus. Key challenges identified by schools included a need for additional course offerings; avoiding scheduling conflicts; providing access to AP and upper-level courses, particularly STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) courses; and improving foundational skills for English Language Learning students.

“Nebraska Virtual Scholars has proven to be an important program for counselors and principals throughout the state. It has provided a way for them to solve issues they may not have been able to avoid, offer more opportunities and meet both the students’ and the school’s academic goals,” said Barbara Wolf Shousha, director of the University of Nebraska High School. “The reach of this program is but another point of pride for us. Once we have selected this year’s recipients, Nebraska Virtual Scholars will have awarded more than 500 scholarships to schools and students since 2011. Last year alone, the University of Nebraska High School served students in 61 Nebraska counties, and the Virtual Scholars program is crucial in allowing us to do so.”

The University of Nebraska High School currently serves 2,700 students, of whom about 400 are Nebraskans. Growing resident enrollment is a key goal for the high school as the university works to achieve widely shared goals for increasing high school graduation and college-going rates in Nebraska. The high school’s standard cost for Nebraska residents is $200 per one-semester course and courses are available for enrollment outside of the program year-round.

More information about the 2015-16 Nebraska Virtual Scholars program, including application details, is available here.


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