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2 SATURDAY, MARCH 30, 2013

EDUCATION GUIDE

THE NORTH PLATTE TELEGRAPH

MPCC ‘freeze’ keeps tuition affordable Mid-Plains honors promise to students by keeping costs low By CHUCK SALESTROM Special to the Telegraph

ast week, Nebraska’s university and state college systems announced that if the Unicameral’s Appropriations Committee won’t increase their funding, they will ask for a range of tuition, fees, housing, and meal increases of 5-7.5 percent. At his Mid-Plains Community College Board of Governors meeting in February, President Ryan Purdy

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other community colleges have indicated during the past few weeks, all will increase their rates next year. told the MPCC Board That won’t be the of Governors that case at MPCC. Midwhile the state’s comPlains Community munity colleges were College, with campusnot part of the univer- es in McCook, North sity/state college apPlatte, Broken Bow, propriation increase, Ogallala, Valentine he had led a discusand Imperial, will honsion among senior or its promise and will leadership as to not only freeze tuition, whether MPCC could but also not increase freeze tuition, fees, its associated fees, housing and meals for housing, and meal the 2013-14 academic plans for the 2013-14 year. At that time, Pur- academic year. dy also told the Board “For the past five that several other com- years, we have not inmunity colleges in the creased our local propstate were considering erty tax levy,” said freezes of their own. Purdy. “We have mainHowever, as the five tained our budget

Courtesy photo

Students study in the fireplace area at North Platte Community College.

within the valuations increases from our 18 county service area.” “We know our local taxpayers appreciate us not raising our levy, however, we felt that it was time to help our students — if we could make the numbers work,” he added. While county valuations are not reported until August and the college budget won’t be finalized and approved until mid-September, it was important to make the deci-

sion to freeze rates so that those making plans to attend college next fall will have accurate figures to work with. “Our per-credit hour tuition and fees for Nebraska and states that border our service area and western Nebraska is $92,” Purdy said. “The approximate cost for a full 15hour load is roughly $2,760 per year. Our housing and meal plans are roughly twothirds the costs of one of the state colleges or

at one of the schools in the university system. If they do raise their rates by the amounts that they are predicting, attending the first two years with us at either McCook or North Platte makes even more sense.” For more detailed information, please contact 800-658-4348 for McCook Community College or 800-658-4308 ext. 3601 for North Platte Community College or www.mpcc.edu for both colleges.

About Mid-Plains Community College Mid-Plains Community College serves an 18-county region in west central Nebraska, extending from the Kansas state line north to the South Dakota border. MPCC has colleges in North Platte and McCook. MPCC offers Associate of Arts, Associate of Science and Associate of General Studies degrees for students intending to complete a baccalaureate degree at an upper division institution.

The Associate of Applied Science degree at MPCC is designed to prepare students through a comprehensive program of study in a specific occupation to enter the work force upon graduation. MPCC also offers several diploma and certificate programs in a variety of fields. For more information about the programs available through MPCC, call 5353600.


EDUCATION GUIDE

THE NORTH PLATTE TELEGRAPH

SATURDAY, MARCH 30, 2013

Funding sources can be a boost Tax credits, loans, grants available to help qualifying students afford their college tuition By DIANE WETZEL dwetzel@nptelegraph.com

It’s that time of year, when high school students and their parents anxiously await news of college acceptance and make their way through the financial aid gauntlet. In January, President Barack Obama signed legislation to ward off the “fiscal cliff ” that would have meant widespread tax increases and spending cuts. What does that legislation and the looming sequester mean for financial aid? The fiscal cliff legislation, known as the American Taxpayer’s Relief Act, had some good news for students going to college. The legislation extends the American Opportunity Tax Credit, a partially refundable tax credit that helps students and families pay for college for the next five years. THE AOTC provides up to $2,500 in tax credits on the first $4,000 of qualifying educational expenses, which includes books and course materials. To qualify for the fill AOTC credit, adjusted gross income must be less than $90,000 if single or filing as head of household, or $180,000 if married and filing jointly. Money spent for tuition, fees, and books in the first four years of college counts toward the credit. According to the American Association of Com-

Name here / The North Platte Telegraph

A faculty member guilds a student in a computer lab at North Platte Community College in North Platte. MPCC President Ryan Purdy says grant and loan funding has been crucial to the education of many.

munity Colleges, that tax credit reaches millions of community college students a year. The credit provided more than $18 billion is assistance to college students and their families in 2012. Spending cuts may be on the way, however. The fiscal cliff legislation delayed across-the board sequester cuts for two months, the AACC reports, adding that the cuts were estimated at 8.2 percent for all nonexempt domestic discretionary programs. Mid-Plains Community College president Ryan Purdy recently sat down to talk about the impact of the fiscal cliff on financial aid locally. “We received about the same amount in grant funding for the coming year of 2013-14,” he said.

“For example, the Perkins grand allotment to the state was untouched. That is good news for the college. As far as the other big grants are concerned, they are not looking to reduce the size of the awards, but looking to reduce the number of future awards.” Federal Pell grants, money awarded to undergraduate students has seen an increase in the maximum dollars students can receive next year. “If they do end up cutting PELL funds, it won’t necessarily be at the top end,” Purdy said. “They will raise the family contribution. For example, if the Expected Family Contribution is $20,000, they will probably move it down to $15,000. That’s where I see them making the tweaks.” If PELL grant funding is

cut, community colleges like MPCC could benefit, he said. “If we lose PELL, a lot of students that are planning to go to higher priced schools, their moms and dads may say, okay, we don’t qualify for PELL any longer so we are going to send you back to a community college.” “Until we see how the impact of the sequester rolls out, it is going to be hard to gauge what will happen, there are just so many things up in the air right now,” he said. “As far as the amount of dollars we are getting in grants now, it’s not significant.” A full PELL grant for students attending MPCC will cover the cost of tuition and fees and books, Purdy said. “It may not cover full tuition at a four-year college like the University,” he said. “It may cover 80 percent, but you still have $10,000 in room and board on top of that. Students and parents need to be aware of that.” Data shows that students who begin their post-secondary education at a community college and transfer on to a four-year college or university usually do better than those who go directly to a four-year school. “If you look at those stats, why wouldn’t you want to go to a community college where you can literally save tens of thousands of dollars over two years and then transfer,” Purdy said. “Sometime people think community colleges are for students who couldn’t make it at a four-year college. That’s not true. We will take any student.”

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North Platte Public Schools District Administration 301 West F St., 535-7100

Elementary Schools Buffalo Elementary 1600 N. Buffalo Bill Ave. 535-7130 Cody Elementary 2000 W. Second St. 535-7132 Eisenhower Elementary 3900 West A St. 535-7134 Hall School 3199 N. Studley Rd. 532-2470 Jefferson Elementary 700 E. Third St. 535-7136 Lake Maloney School 848 E. Correction Line Rd. 532-9392 Lincoln Elementary 200 W. Ninth St. 535-7132 McDonald Elementary 601 McDonald Rd. 535-7140 Osgood Elementary South Hwy 83 535-7144 Washington Elementary 600 W. Third St. 535-7142

Middle schools Adams Middle School 1200 McDonald Rd. 535-7112, 535-7114 — Counselor’s office Madison Middle School 1400 N. Madison Avenue 535-7126 535-7127 – Counselors office

High school North Platte High School 1220 W. Second St. 535-7105 opt 1 535-7105 opt 4 — Counselor’s office; 535-7105 opt 5 — Activities office

The Learning Center 1400 N. Madison Avenue 535-5311


EDUCATION GUIDE

4 SATURDAY, MARCH 30, 2013

THE NORTH PLATTE TELEGRAPH

Community college: A great deal Mid-Plains Community College sees a 17.95 jump in enrollment By DIANE WETZEL dwetzel@nptelegraph.com

Mid-Plains Community College saw a record enrollment in 2012, on pace with other community colleges in the state and across the country. “In the last five years, community colleges in Nebraska saw an average enrollment increase of 18.8 percent,” said MPPC president Ryan Purdy. “We are at 17.95 percent increase in that same five-year time frame.” An education at a commu-

nity college means less debt from student loans. The average student loan debt for a graduate of MPCC is between $2,700 to $3,000, Purdy said. According to the Project on Student Debt, the average loan debt for graduates in Nebraska in 2011 was $24,287. With unemployment rates for recent college graduates high in many states and the number of college graduates with student loan debt continues to increase, a new report from the State Higher Education Executive Of-

ficers Association emphasizes the continuing economic benefits of earning a college degree. The report presents national and state wage data from 2009-10, divided into seven degree categories; arts and humanities, business, social, education, behavioral sciences, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), health and trades. Community colleges award the most arts and humanities degrees, and associate degree holders in that category earn a median income of $32,244, which is 27 percent higher than income earned by people in the field with only a high school education.

An associate degree from a community college in a STEM field pays nearly as well as that of a bachelordegree. According to a recent article published in Community College Week, nearly 30 percent of Americans with associates degrees now make more than those with bachelor degrees, according to Georgetown University’s Center for Education and the Workforce. New research shows that on average, community college graduates make more right out of school than graduates of four-year universities. While bachelor degree holders often catch up in earnings by mid-career, get-

ting a four-year degree is much more expensive than earning a two-year associates degree. “That makes community colleges very good deals,” Purdy said.

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North Platte Catholic Schools St. Patrick Junior and Senior High School 500 S. Silber 532-1874 McDaid Elementary 1002 East E 532-1874

Our Redeemer Lutheran School 1400 East E 532-6421

Platte Valley Christian Academy 1521 Rodeo Rd. 534-8883

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EDUCATION GUIDE

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Small-town education in the spotlight Rural schools and consolidation topics of upcoming Neb. symposium By SARA GIBONEY World-Herald News Service

KEARNEY — “Gains and Losses from School Consolidation in the Great Plains” will be the theme for the 39th annual Center for Great Plains Studies symposium. “This theme serves as a launching point to give participants the opportunity to connect the pros and cons of school consolidation with protecting the quality of life in rural communities,” Symposium chairman and University of Nebraska at Kearney professor Peter Longo said in a press release. More than one-third of U.S. children attend school in rural areas or small towns. Many communities in the Great Plains have been losing population for nearly a century. School consolidation is an approach already chosen by many school districts while others struggle to find different strategies. “Rural schools in small communities are one of the most important civic entities in the town and it’s one of those key elements of a town that allows a town to maintain itself,” said Rick Edwards, symposium chairman and director of the Center for Great Plains Studies. “Schools help maintain the vitality of rural communities. When you have declining populations in small towns, it adds pressure to consolidate.” As part of Rural Schools Week in Nebraska, the Center for Great Plains Studies at the University of Nebras-

Telegraph file photo

Students at Hershey Public Schools celebrated the start of state testing season with a pep rally on March 25. Rural schools will be the focus of a symposium taking place on April 5-6 in Kearney.

ka will host the symposium April 5-6 at the University of Nebraska at Kearney and the Younes Conference Center. Edwards said rural schools often struggle between wanting to keep their identity with a school and offering students more courses and opportunities. The symposium, which is open to the public, will address the causes and consequences of school consolidation, the politics of school consolidation, school consolidation trends across the country, its effects on students, how to sustain the vitality of rural schools and rural communities and how to support rural math teachers. University of Nebraska chancellors also will talk about the connection between the university and rural schools.

The symposium will feature more than two dozen speakers including Gov. Dave Heineman, Marty Strange and several school district superintendents and university deans. Paul Theobold, author of several books on rural education and a dean at Buena Vista University, will give the keynote address. He has published widely on the topic of community and placebased education, the idea that learning through the outdoor environment and a student’s community is a key component of a strong education. His symposium topic will be “Rural Schools and Communities at the Intersection of Assumptions and Evidence.” The symposium also will feature a free concert by the Hutchins Consort, a photog-

raphy exhibition at the Museum of Nebraska Art and sandhill crane watching. At MONA, photographer Charles Guildner’s photographs will be on display in the exhibit, “Rural Schools of Nebraska: Photographs by Charles Guildner.” This is the first time the Center for Great Plains Studies symposium is taking place at UNK. For more information about the conference, go to www.unl.edu/plains or email cgps@unl.edu. The Center for Great Plains Studies is a four-campus interdisciplinary, research and teaching program. Its mission is to promote a greater understanding of the people, culture, history, and environment of the Great Plains through a variety of research, teaching, and outreach programs.


EDUCATION GUIDE

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SATURDAY, MARCH 30, 2013

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Area district to ‘hold off’ on reconfiguration By DAVID PENNER World-Herald News Service

LEXINGTON — The Lexington Public School (LPS) District will not be reconfiguring the landscape of its elementary schools in the near future after all. That was the message sent out by LPS Superintendent John Hakonson this week to LPS staff. The district was looking at

restructuring Morton, Pershing and Sandoz elementary schools from neighborhood elementary schools into elementary campuses, where each school would hold two specific grade levels. However, after hearing the public’s input — for and against — during three public presentations of the plan at the Lexington Public Library, and in light of new information provided by

the Nebraska Department of Education (NDE), the district has decided not to enact the plan at this time. “We are not going to pursue the elementary grade reconfiguration for 2013-2014,” Hakonson told staff in an email sent out on Thursday, adding that the district may revisit the reconfiguring idea at a later date. Hakonson stated in an earlier interview that the

Lexington School Board could have potentially voted on the plan at its next meeting, Monday, April 8. Hakonson said in the email that the NDE confirmed with the district just recently those schools facing potential “Year 3 corrective action” requirements next year could use 20132014 to plan for changes that would need to be implemented in 2014-2015.

“Given the number of questions/concerns surrounding this proposal and the new knowledge that we have more time to react to NCLB [No Child Left Behind] requirements, we thought it prudent to hold off,” Hakonson said in the email. “We will see how our NeSA scores fare next fall and consider reconfiguration and potentially other options that are available.”



Education Guide 2013