Private college grants proposed

Students attending private, not-for-profit colleges or universities in Nebraska could receive additional financial aid under a bill heard by the Education Committee March 3.

LB401, introduced by Seward Sen. Mark Kolterman, would provide grants to students attending an eligible institution and demonstrating significant financial need. Kolterman said that many students looking for a more personalized experience end up leaving the state for college.

“Nebraska as a state has not provided significant resources for students who prefer a smaller, more personal college experience,” he said. “[LB401] gives students a real choice about where to continue their college education.”

The grants would be available to students in their freshman and sophomore years and who maintain minimum educational standards. Full-time students would receive priority, but grants also would be available to part-time students who meet eligibility requirements.

Grants distributed under the bill could not exceed the average taxpayer subsidy provided for instruction of an undergraduate student at a four-year public college or university.

College of Saint Mary President Maryanne Stevens spoke in favor of the bill. She said that the bill would encourage more first generation college students to attend Nebraska institutions.

“Often it’s these students that thrive in smaller environments that most of the private, not-for-profit schools offer,” she said. “This would be an important tool for our colleges to use in helping financially needy students attend college.”

Preston Harris also spoke in favor of the bill, citing his experience as a former student at Concordia University.

“I was very sheltered as a kid and I needed a smaller environment to thrive in my education,” he said. “Unfortunately, I had to work after football games to pay for my tuition. I hated that because I wasn’t able to focus on my school work like I wanted to.”

No one testified in opposition to the bill and the committee took no immediate action on it.

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