Scholarships for technical education proposed

The Education Committee heard testimony March 4 on a bill that would earmark scholarship funds to students enrolled in technical education programs.

LB478, introduced by Papillion Sen. Jim Smith, would require that at least 25 percent of all funds awarded through the Access College Early Scholarship Program be directed to students enrolled in skilled and technical sciences programs. Smith said it is important not to limit the state’s focus to traditional four-year programs.

“Ensuring a technically skilled workforce — including those who choose to be skilled in a trade — is important to bringing new businesses to the state,” he said.

Dennis Baack, executive director of the Nebraska Community College Association, supported the bill, saying the need for technically skilled workers is evident in today’s job market.

“There are some really good job opportunities for community college graduates,” Baack said. “Anything we can do to get back to emphasizing careers and technical education is a step in the right direction.”

Marshall Hill, executive director of the Coordinating Commission on Postsecondary Education, opposed the bill. He said allocating money for specific students is bad public policy.

“I question the wisdom of setting aside a pot of money for a specific class of students,” he said. “As a state, we’ve generally stayed away from that with policy in the past.”

The committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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