A recent report from the Lumina Foundation reveals that a relatively high percentage of working-age adults (ages 25-64) in Nebraska hold a college degree or have at least attempted to earn one. According to the data, 41.5 percent of adults in Nebraska held at least an associate degree in 2011 -- up from 40.5 percent in 2008. The Lumina Foundation goes on to break this figure down even further, exposing additional information about the state of higher education in Nebraska. For example, 237,122 adults or 25.6 percent of the population had some college experience but no degree in 2011, while 104,668 adults or 11.06 percent had an associate degree, 197,864 individuals or 20.91 percent held a bachelor's, and 90,061 or 9.52 percent had earned a graduate or professional degree.
The fact that so many adults in Nebraska have pursued higher education says a lot about the worth of a college degree in today's economy. More and more adults are finding that they need some sort of postsecondary education in order to gain employment in a career that helps them live the lifestyle they desire. Fortunately, Nebraska residents will find no shortage of options when it comes to colleges and universities to choose from. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that the state is home to 30 colleges and universities where students can earn an associate degree and an additional 30 schools that feature bachelor's programs. While these schools offer primarily traditional choices when it comes to higher education, a growing number are giving students the chance to pursue their degree online.
Why Should I Earn a Degree in Nebraska?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 927,150 people were employed in Nebraska in 2013, and those workers earned a mean annual wage of $40,210. Although college graduates are spread out among many industries, the following careers employed a large percentage of those workers in 2013:
Number of Workers
|Office and Administrative Support Occupations||155,890||$33,950|
|Sales and Related Occupations||102,160||$36,740|
|Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations||81,940||$22,740|
|Transportation and Material Moving Occupations||79,680||$36,760|
|Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations||59,560||$70,460|
|Education, Training, and Library Occupations||57,760||$49,910|
|Business and Financial Operations Occupations||48,520||$65,430|
|Construction and Extraction Occupations||43,050||$41,830|
|Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Occupations||39,470||$44,810|
|Building and Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance Occupations||28,250||$26,500|
|Computer and Mathematical Occupations||28,000||$73,570|
|Personal Care and Service Occupations||27,080||$26,040|
Although Nebraska is known as a rural state, it is home to several large cities and urban regions including the Omaha-Council Bluffs, Lincoln, and Grand Island metropolitan areas. Because of the diverse population and many industries that call Nebraska home, many different colleges and universities can also be found scattered throughout the state. Distance learning in Nebraska has also become a popular option for students who need to continue working or have other important obligations.
According to the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, some of the state's key industries include biosolutions, transportation logistics, software and technology, finance and insurance, engineering, tourism, health services, and advanced manufacturing. Based on employment trends, economic output, and future growth projections, these industries are poised to take Nebraska's workforce into the future and add plenty of jobs over the next few decades as well.
However, many of those jobs will require a college degree or some kind of postsecondary education, which is why so many colleges in Nebraska continue to offer high quality higher education to the state's residents. And to expand educational opportunity to even more students, many schools have begun offering online degrees in Nebraska. Schools like the University of Nebraska, Bellevue University, and York College have stepped up to the plate in terms of online offerings with hundreds of courses in both hybrid and fully-online formats. The University of Nebraska even has an online learning portal of its own where students can learn more about the 100+ accredited online bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees they have available.
According to College Board statistics, the average tuition and fees at public four-year schools in Nebraska came out to $7,404 for the 2014-15 school year. However, online education in Nebraska is frequently less expensive than traditional education due to a variety of factors.
Nebraska may be a great place to earn a degree and lay down some roots, but it's not just because of the many schools and industries located in the state. Beyond career opportunities and educational attainment, living in Nebraska is a truly unique experience. Here are a few of the reasons why:
- Nebraska has the third smallest population out of all 50 states and is one of the least densely populated states in the nation. If you want room to spread out, Nebraska is a great state to do just that.
- Even though Nebraska is known for having vast expanses of desert and plains, it also has more miles of river than any other state. The Niobrara River alone contains more than 90 waterfalls.
- Thirsty? Nebraska has more underground water reserves than any other state in the nation. The surplus includes the largest aquifer in the U.S. as well, the Ogalala.
- Meat lovers, unite! Nebraska is the birthplace of the Reuben sandwich, and Spam (canned meat) is produced in Fremont, Nebraska.
- Conservative and liberal students alike can take the nation's first college course about radio host Rush Limbaugh at Bellevue University in Nebraska.
What Makes Nebraska Ideal for Online Education?
Thanks to the focus Nebraska colleges and universities have placed on online education, students in the state have plenty of opportunity to pursue an online degree if they choose to do so. But that doesn't mean that all online degree in Nebraska are created equal. According to the experts, all students, whether online or traditional, should spend an ample amount of time exploring potential programs and what they entail.
Donna N. McDaniel, Vice President for Academic Affairs for Bellevue University, believes that students should begin the process by asking themselves what field of study really interests them.
""If a student wants to be a graphic artist or an occupational therapist, the Internet environment should be used to learn about those careers first,"" says McDaniel. ""A student should be encouraged to shadow a person in the field of interest. What looks good on paper may not be nearly as interesting or engaging in person.""
Once a student decides which career they want to pursue, it's then time to dig a little deeper. As McDaniel notes, there are several questions each student should ask themselves about their potential degree program. For example, will my degree program accept any of my existing transfer credits? And, is this degree program created in a way that will help me achieve my career goals?
Other issues to explore include accreditation, quality of instruction, and obviously cost, which is an important piece of the puzzle for many students. Once a student decides on an online degree program, however, they need to go "all in" with their studies. Beyond paying attention and being "present" in the online learning environment, online students need to take their new role just as seriously as if they were sitting in a physical classroom and focus on their long-term educational goals. Online degrees can lead to the same career outcomes as traditional on-campus education, but only if the same amount of effort is put in.
In other words, students need to set themselves up for success.
"One of the big things to prepare for online learning is getting in the proper mindset," says McDaniel. "To facilitate this, much like working from home, students need to consider establishing a 'home office' or 'home library' where they can go to have uninterrupted class or study time isolated from the distractions of home."
Top 10 Degrees in Nebraska
Using wage data and employment predictions compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Department of Labor's CareerOneStop, we've compiled this list of top 10 college degrees in Nebraska:
Occupational Therapy Assisting
A degree in occupational therapy assisting can lead to a career as an assistant to an occupational therapist. Because of an overall demand for occupational therapy services, employment of these professionals is expected to increase 45 percent in Nebraska during the decade leading up to 2022.
Physical Therapy Assistant
Earning a degree in physical therapy assisting can help you prepare for a future in this rewarding career. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, job openings for physical therapy assistants in Nebraska are expected to rise 37 percent between 2012 and 2022.
A degree in engineering can lead to a career in any number of fields and disciplines including construction, environmentalism, mining, and operations. Because of the overall demand for engineers in the state of Nebraska, the U.S. Department of Labor predicts that employment will increase in the following occupations from 2012 to 2022: mining and geological engineers (34 percent), operations research analysts (32 percent), and cvil engineers (20 percent).
A computer science degree can lead to a career in any field that uses technology or computers. Due to the increased use of technology in workplaces across the board, the U.S. Department of Labor predicts an increase in employment for several careers in Nebraska from 2012 to 2022, including these: information security analyst (34 percent), computer system analyst (25 percent), and Web developer (22 percent).
Earning an associate degree in dental hygiene is typically all it takes to begin a career as a dental hygienist. And thanks to growing demand for dental care in the state, the U.S. Department of Labor predicts that job openings for dental hygienists could increase by as much as 30 percent in Nebraska during the decade leading up to 2022.
Students who pursue marketing degrees in Nebraska might be able to gain employment in any number of fields that employ and utilize marketing experts. Popular occupations in this field include market research analyst and marketing specialist, both of which are expected to see a 30 percent growth in job openings from 2012 to 2022, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Although careers in geography aren't known for being in high demand, employment opportunities in this field are expected to increase by as much as 27 percent in Nebraska from 2012 to 2022.
A degree in mathematics could lead to a career in any field that involves the use of advanced math. Some popular career paths include actuarial science, construction science, and logistics. Because of an increase in demand for advanced math in the workplace, the U.S. Department of Labor predicts an increase in employment for the following careers in Nebraska from 2012 to 2022: actuaries (25 percent), cost estimators (24 percent), and logisticians (21 percent).
Students who earn degrees in sonography often do so in order to find work as a cardiovascular or vascular technologist or technician, or as a diagnostic medical sonographer. Due to growing demand for ultrasound expertise, the U.S. Department of Labor predicts that employment of diagnostic medical sonographers could increase by as much as 21 percent in Nebraska from 2012 to 2022.
Earning an associate degree in veterinary technology is the easiest way to begin a career as a veterinary technologist or technician. According to U.S. Department of Labor figures, job openings for these professionals are expected to increase by as much as 29 percent in Nebraska between 2012 and 2022.
Top Cities for Nebraska College Students
According to estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, Omaha was home to 434,353 residents in 2013. Of that population, approximately 32.5 percent of the state's working-age adults held a bachelor's degree in 2008-2012, and 88.1 percent had earned at least a high school diploma. As part of the Omaha-Council Bluffs metropolitan area, Omaha is home to several Fortune 500 companies and a slew of industries, including everything from food production and packaging to banking and construction. With its historical buildings and landmarks, low cost of living, and Midwestern charm, Omaha is seen by many as an exceptional place to earn a degree and settle down. The National Center for Education shows a total of 18 colleges and universities in Omaha, including these popular schools:
University of Nebraska Omaha
With a student population of over 15,000, a reputable online presence, and multiple campuses in the Omaha area, the University of Nebraska Omaha appeals to both traditional students and those seeking online education in Nebraska. Students at the school can choose from over 200 bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degree programs in a variety of fields, and all at a cost of approximately $19,904 for the 2014-15 school year including tuition, fees, books, supplies, room and board. UNO is known for the following degree programs:
- Online Bachelor of General Studies
- Online Bachelor of Science in Architectural Engineering
- Bachelor of Science in Business Administration
Founded in 1888, Clarkson College has kept its focus on preparing students for various healthcare careers. Student enrollment for 2014 included 1,221 students, and the school has maintained an average student-to-faculty ratio of 13:1 despite its growth over the years. Undergraduate tuition averaged out to $459 per credit hour for the 2014-15 school year, in addition to various mandatory fees that round out the total expense. Clarkson College students flock to these popular degree programs:
- Bachelor of Science in Medical Imaging
- Associate of Science in Physical Therapy Assistant
- Bachelor of Science in Health Information Administration
Founded in 1878, Creighton University has over 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students and a student-to-faculty ratio of 11 to 1. The school offers a Jesuit education based on Catholic values and traditions. In addition to its traditional education offerings, Creighton offers over 20 online degree programs to students in Nebraska. The following degrees are a few of their most popular:
- Online Master of Science in Leadership
- Online Doctor of Pharmacy
- Online Bachelor of Arts in Healthy Lifestyle Management
With 268,738 residents as of 2013, Lincoln is the second largest city in Nebraska and the center of the Lincoln metropolitan area. Approximately 35.9 percent of the population ages 25 and up held a bachelor's degree from 2008-2012, while an astounding 93.3 percent had at least a high school diploma. The National Center of Education Statistics shows a total of 11 colleges and universities in the Lincoln area, including small technical and career colleges and plenty of larger colleges. With a low cost of living and an economy built around service industries, higher education, finance, publishing, and manufacturing, Lincoln is another great city in Nebraska to lay down roots. The following schools contribute to the economy and culture of the area:
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
As part of the University of Nebraska system, UNL is able to offer students big university support with a small town feel. And with a variety of undergraduate and graduate programs, in addition to options for distance learning, the school offers something for everyone. Estimated average tuition and fees including room and board came out to $18,130.50 for the 2014-15 school year. Some of their most popular degree programs are as follows:
- Online Bachelor of Science in Applied Science
- Master of Science in Architectural Engineering
- Master of Science in Computer Science
Southeast Community College
Southeast Community College offers more than 50 career-oriented education programs that can be completed in 18-24 months. And due to the school's dedication to distance learning, 12 of their most popular programs are offered in a flexible, online format. With an annual enrollment of around 11,000 students, Southeast caters to students that want to begin a career in the growing fields of food production, machining and technology, and engineering. The following degree programs are a few of their most popular:
- Online Associate of Applied Science in Computer Information Technology
- Online Associate of Applied Science in Long Term Care Administration
- Associate of Applied Science in Nursing
Set in the heart of Lincoln, Union College offers students the choice of any one of 50 college majors. Including tuition and fees, average costs to attend came out to approximately $20,132 for the 2014-15 school year. The school has a student population of around 900 and offers two-year and four-year degrees, as well as one master's program. Union College is known for offering these dynamic degree programs:
- Bachelor of Science in Finance
- Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems
- Bachelor of Science in Nursing
Part of the Omaha-Council Bluffs metro area, Bellevue is Nebraska's third largest city, with a population of 53,663 as of 2013. Approximately 26.3 percent of Bellevue's adult population held a bachelor's degree from 2008-2012, and around 92 percent had earned a high school diploma. Ideally situated on the Missouri River, Bellevue is currently in the midst of a building boom. And with its rolling hillsides, miles of walking trails, and park-like setting, Bellevue remains a popular city for Nebraska residents who want to work hard and play hard. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, two colleges and universities reside in the Bellevue area:
Although Bellevue University was founded in 1966, the school has completely redefined itself to include a variety of programs geared towards working adults, including many online degree options. The school currently enrolls around 10,000 students annually and offers an incredible tuition rate of around $250 per credit hour for undergraduate students. With its focus on online learning, the following degree programs are what they are known for:
- Online Bachelor of Science in Accounting
- Online Bachelor of Science in Business Administration
- Online Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Management
National American University
National American University is a career-oriented institution with several locations in Nebraska, including a campus in Bellevue. The school currently offers more than 60 degree and certificate programs that can lead to careers in many of the state's key industries. In addition to traditional on-campus learning, NAU boasts a robust distance learning catalog with many fully-online degree programs and online courses. A few of their notable programs:
- Online RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing
- Online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
- Online Associate of Applied Science in Computer Security
Scholarships and Financial Aid in Nebraska
In order for your eligibility to be determined for federal financial aid, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each year. Doing so will help you determine which types of federal aid you might qualify for, which could include but is not limited to Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, and Federal Work-Study opportunities. The state of Nebraska also offers its own opportunity grant to residents who meet certain guidelines.
Other types of aid may also be available to Nebraska students, including institutional aid for students who attend certain schools. The following list contains just a few of the many scholarships Nebraska residents may be eligible for:
- Nebraska State Grant
- Nebraska High School Senior Animal Interest Scholarship
- AQHF Christopher Junker Memorial Nebraska Scholarship
- Nebraska Elks Association Vocational Scholarship Grants
- Norma Ross Walter Scholarship
- Collegebound Nebraska tuition assistance program
- Nebraska Legacy Scholarship
- Regents Scholarship
- Abel Foundation Scholarship
- Agri-Business Scholarship-Nebraska
- American Baptist Women of Nebraska Scholarship
- Canfield Scholarship
- Carl A. Jeanetta Scholarship
- Fetters Memorial Scholarship
- George A. Crosscup Endowed Scholarship
- Hyle Gatzemeyer Memorial Scholarship
- Nebraska Bankers Association Scholarships
- Nebraska 4-H Scholarships
- Nebraska Baptist Student Award
""A Stronger Nation through Higher Education,"" Lumina Foundation, http://www.luminafoundation.org/stronger_nation/report/#nebraska
CareerOneStop, U.S. Department of Labor, http://www.careerinfonet.org/oview1.asp?next=oview1&Level=edu4&optstatus=&jobfam=&id=1&nodeid=3&soccode=&stfips=31&ShowAll=
College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?s=NE&l=93
""May 2013 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Nebraska,"" Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ne.htm
Nebraska Department of Economic Development, http://www.neded.org/business/why-nebraska/major-industry-sectors-companies
""State and County QuickFacts,"" U.S. Census Bureau, Bellevue, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/31/3103950.html
""State and County QuickFacts,"" U.S. Census Bureau, Lincoln, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/31/3128000.html
""State and County QuickFacts,"" U.S. Census Bureau, Omaha, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/31/3137000.html
""Tuition and Fees by Sector and State over Time,"" College Board, http://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing/figures-tables/tuition-and-fees-sector-and-state-over-time