Two years free tuition helping to develop Lincoln’s workforce

Thanks to a recent gift from the Acklie Charitable Foundation, students who receive the Learn to Dream Scholarship at Southeast Community College can now complete a second year of credits without having to pay tuition and fees.

Helping families out of poverty while filling in-demand positions is the goal of the Employment Skills focus area for Prosper Lincoln. Certifications and degrees after high school graduation is one key to fulfilling this goal, but cost has been a barrier.

The Learn to Dream scholarship, first established in 2007 as a partnership between Union Bank & Trust, Nelnet, Lincoln Public Schools, and SCC, included recruitment and transition support and covered tuition and fees up to 45 quarter credit hours for qualifying students. The donation by Acklie Charitable Foundation will now allow students to complete up to 90 quarter credit hours, or two years of study, without paying tuition and fees.

“It was set up to say to every low-income student, ‘if you would persist in your education at Lincoln Public Schools and graduate from high school, there is a scholarship waiting for you to attend SCC’,” said now-retired SCC President Jack Huck. The scholarship creates an opportunity for every economically disadvantaged high school student graduating from a public or private Lincoln-area high school to further their education by attending SCC in Beatrice, Lincoln or Milford.

“Acklie Charitable Foundation is pleased to be able to extend the impact of the Learn to Dream Scholarship,” said Halley Acklie Kruse, vice president and general counsel for the ACF. “Union Bank and Nelnet’s vision to help give young people in Lincoln the opportunity to further their education is inspiring, and that is a dream we want to help continue.”

The Learn to Dream scholarship is a proven program that helps change lives. Jessica Jimenez may only be 24 years old, but she’s already accomplished a lot and it all started with the Learn to Dream program. After graduating from North Star High School, she utilized the first year of the Learn to Dream scholarship to earn an associate of applied science degree. She now works as a Higher Ed Account Manager at Nelnet and has transferred her SCC credits to Peru State College where she will work toward a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

Jessica wasn’t the first member of her family to take advantage of the Learn to Dream scholarship. Her brother Christian was the first generation in her family to attend college. He received his associates in applied sciences in business administration in 2013. He also works full-time at Nelnet as a project manager. Younger sister Dulce Jimenez is a senior at North Star High School and recently applied for the Learn to Dream scholarship as well.

According to Brock Zautke, Success Coach for Learn to Dream students, many utilizing the scholarships are first generation college students which statistically have a lower probability of graduating. Supporting the student by being a familiar face, helping them navigate admissions and registration and teaching them expectations of being a college student improves their likelihood of graduating.

“In my four and half years here, I’ve seen good students who would have loved to be able to extend their learning,” said Zautke. “With this second year of free tuition and fees, more students will be able to graduate, find employment and grow in our community.”

Qualifying students who graduate from a LPS or private high school in Lincoln after Jan. 1, 2018, can take advantage of the 90 quarter credit hours.

  • They must be eligible for free or reduced-price meals.
  • They must complete the 90 quarter credit hours within 48 months of first enrolling at SCC.
  • They must maintain a minimum cumulative 2.0 grade-point average while enrolled at SCC.

Phyllis and the late Duane Acklie, Kruse’s grandparents and founders of Acklie Charitable Foundation, both started their educations through the Nebraska community college system. Duane, who went on to obtain a law degree and establish Crete Carrier Corporation, believed in the value of higher education. Duane and Phyllis also felt strongly that Nebraska’s community colleges play an important role in helping students acquire a good education.

“For all of these reasons, Acklie Charitable Foundation is proud to partner with Southeast Community College to offer a second year of funding through the Learn to Dream Scholarship program,” Kruse said.

Learn more about Learn to Dream.