The University of Nebraska’s Commit to Complete campaign is going statewide, expanding on the aim to minimize college costs and grow the workforce by encouraging students to graduate on time.
Launched in 2016, the expanded program was announced Nov. 26. Commit to Complete now includes partners across public higher education, state government and business leaders, uniting for a coordinated effort to enhance student success and address Nebraska’s urgent workforce needs.
“Nebraskans rightfully want to know what we’re doing to ensure that our students graduate on time, with as little debt as possible, and with the skills they need to succeed in the workforce,” said Susan Fritz, NU’s interim president. “Attracting and retaining more talent in our state is certainly part of the solution to the workforce crisis. But as institutions of higher learning, we also have a responsibility to help our students complete their academic journey on time.”
According to the Nebraska Department of Labor, the state will have 34,000 annual job openings for high-skill, high-demand, high-wage workers like engineers, engineering technicians, nurses, dental hygienists, healthcare workers, computer network support specialists and technology experts. More than two-thirds of those jobs will require an associate’s or higher degree.
“I encourage Nebraska’s college and university students to commit to complete their degrees on time,” Gov. Pete Ricketts said. “By staying on schedule, students increase their likelihood of getting a degree, limit their debt, and accelerate their transition into a rewarding job upon graduation.”
Currently, one-third of first-time, full-time, degree-seeking students at Nebraska’s public four-year institutions graduate within four years. One-fourth of first-time, full-time, degree- or certificate-seeking students at Nebraska’s two-year institutions earn their credentials within two years.
While every student has unique circumstances, Commit to Complete” aims to remind students and families of the cost savings and earnings potential that can come along with more timely graduation.
The campaign has been endorsed by the Nebraska, Kearney, Lincoln and Omaha chambers of commerce.
Commit to Complete offers a four-step plan for degree completion. Those steps include:
Meet with an adviser to discuss student needs;
Make a plan, including a course schedule, for each year of school;
Stay on track, meeting with an adviser at least once a semester/quarter and participating in internships, apprenticeships, undergraduate research and other activities that align with an area of interest; and
Increasing access to higher education and earning a degree can often be a game-changer, said Ronnie Green, chancellor of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.
“(Higher education) has the experience to transform lives,” Green said. “By the same token, every non-completed degree is a lack of fulfilled promise — and a true economic cost. This partnership is critically important for our state and for each student working to achieve the glory of earning a degree.”
Commit to Complete builds on a long-standing statewide focus on student access and success and economic development. Each of the university’s undergraduate campuses, for example, has initiatives in place to improve retention and graduation rates. The Board of Regents in 2011 capped most baccalaureate degrees at 120 hours, ensuring that most students who take 30 credit hours per year graduate in four years.
All three colleges in the Nebraska State College System have reduced the number of credits required for a bachelor’s degree. They have also increased the number of dual-credit courses for high school students, providing an affordable jump-start on college that gives students added flexibility and helps ensure timely graduation.
In addition, Nebraska’s public institutions of higher education have worked together to craft pathway programs between institutions to guide students to their degree, regardless of whether they start at a community college or one of the four-year institutions. These partnerships include initiatives to expand access and grow the workforce, like the Rural Health Opportunities Program, Kearney Health Opportunities Program, Rural Law Opportunities Program and Urban Health Opportunities Program.