The University of Nebraska’s online programs are continuing their steady growth in expanding access to education, helping to grow Nebraska’s talent base and build a skilled workforce to meet the needs of the state’s economy.
New figures reported to the Board of Regents this month show that unduplicated headcount enrollment of distance-only students – that is, students enrolled exclusively in NU online programs – rose from 4,454 in fall 2015 to 4,887 the following year, an increase of almost 10 percent.
Each campus saw an increase in distance-only students, and NU’s growth outpaced the average among U.S. public four-year institutions, according to the report from Mary Niemiec, associate vice president for digital education and director of the University of Nebraska Online, the collaborative initiative that supports and promotes online programs offered by the four NU campuses.
Enrollment of distance-only students is a key metric reported to the Board every year because it is a measure of the university’s success in reaching students who, for geographic, family, job, military or other obligations, may not otherwise have access to a University of Nebraska education.
“Online learning is about access,” Niemiec said. “We know students today need a combination of quality, affordability and flexibility as they pursue their educational goals. The University of Nebraska’s online programs offer all three. I could not be more proud of the work our campuses and talented faculty are doing to make their courses available to more students in Nebraska and around the world as we contribute to individual and economic growth.”
Among other highlights: The number of credit hours generated by NU’s distance-only students has grown 8.5 percent in the past year, to more than 70,000. Additionally, two-thirds of the university’s distance-only students are Nebraskans, signaling that NU’s online programs are a key platform for access and opportunity for the people of the state.
“Technology offers new and exciting opportunities to reach students who want to take advantage of the transformative power of higher education,” said NU President Hank Bounds. “We have a responsibility to take advantage of those opportunities in order to help grow our state’s workforce and economy. I’m pleased that students continue to recognize the quality and value the University of Nebraska provides. We have ambitious goals to grow even further to meet the needs of students and our state.”
Bounds noted that the university already produces 11,000 graduates annually. But given that almost all of the jobs of the future will require postsecondary education, the university must do even more to grow educational attainment among Nebraskans to build a highly skilled workforce. Online learning, Bounds said, is a key strategy for doing so, particularly among the 280,000-plus Nebraskans who have completed some college but have not earned a degree.
The University of Nebraska Online website provides access to more than 100 fully online programs offered by the campuses, including those in the health professions, computer science, engineering, agriculture and life sciences, business and other fields important to the workforce.
NU Online also includes the University of Nebraska High School, an accredited, online high school that offers 100-plus core, elective, Advanced Placement and dual enrollment courses to students in Nebraska and beyond. Foundational, AP, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), career education and other courses that build on the good work of Nebraska’s K-12 schools are helping to ensure that all Nebraska students have access to a college- and career-preparatory education no matter where they live.
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