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Education and Training Voucher Alleviates Financial Woes
Nebraska Ag Connection - 03/14/2018

Administered by Central Plains Center for Services through a contracted partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Nebraska's Education Training Voucher (ETV) program helps alleviate the financial burden often associated with obtaining a post-secondary degree, for current and former wards of the state. Nebraska has one of the strongest such programs, with high retention and graduation rates, and students who attend schools across the country.

To qualify for the state-wide program, prospective applicants must enroll in either a community college or a 4-year college, before the age of 21. The program, which is only applicable to undergraduate degrees, follows selected participants until the age of 23, providing them with up to $2,400 annually to apply towards tuition, fees and books.

Selected students are assigned an ETV Specialist. The specialist has regular contact with the youth to assess their needs throughout their entire college career. Needs run the gamut from class scheduling and funding, to housing and relationships. In most cases, though, the main purpose of ongoing contact is to provide continuous encouragement.

That direct support has been a saving grace for many students. "[I] wouldn't be here if it wasn't for your help," one ETV participant, a 2016 graduate from the University of Nebraska Lincoln, said of the program. He graduated with a degree in Business and minor in Economics, and is now working in the sales division of an up-and-coming startup.

Another recent graduate had a similar experience. He hopes for a future career in law enforcement, although he currently works for a non-profit program assisting at-risk youth in Omaha.

Doug Lenz, Director of Central Plains Center for Services, stated, "We're privileged to walk alongside these students as they build a solid foundation for their future. Many young people leave foster care without a solid plan for education, but with a little encouragement and support they can, and do, achieve great things."

"Without this program, some of our youth would have missed the opportunity to pursue higher education. We could not be more pleased with how this partnership has helped them," said Matthew Wallen, Director of DHHS's Division of Children and Family Services.

National research indicates that only 4 percent of young adults with foster care experience will earn a college degree by age 26. Nebraska's ETV program is showing much better outcomes for the young people it serves.

According to the most recent data, since Nebraska's ETV program was first introduced in 2004, there have been 1766 youth participants. Of that number, 232 remain active in the program (as of September 30, 2017) and 237 have completed the program and earned a degree (92 have earned a 4 four year degree, 92 a two year degree and 53 have earned a specialized degree/18 month program). 449 students aged out of the program, many on a solid path towards a college degree.

For more information about the program, or to apply, visit: http://www.central-plains.org/etv.html or contact the Central Plains Center for Services at (308)872-6176.

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