One of the most important investments Nebraskans can make in themselves is to increase their level of education. Jobs are increasingly requiring education beyond high school, and as a state we must be able to offer prospective employers a well-educated workforce. We have an obligation to prepare our students for the challenges of the knowledge-based, technology-driven economy.
Today, 27 percent of Nebraskans have a bachelor's degree. The higher the percentage, the more competitive we are as a state. The new statewide education goals the Nebraska P-16 Initiative announced last August are aimed at improving individual earning power, making Nebraska more competitive for 21st century jobs, and strengthening our long-term economic prospects. Increasing our high school graduation rates, college-going rates, and college retention and graduation rates are essential to Nebraska's future growth.
Technology offers more opportunities than ever to finish your education. One of the greatest opportunities is for Nebraskans who started college but didn't complete their degree. More than 250,000 people in our state have completed some college credits and have not completed a degree. By going back to school, these individuals can earn a bachelor's degree, pursue a master's degree or Ph.D., or gain additional certification or endorsement in career-related areas.
This week, the University of Nebraska announced an expanded initiative to improve access to a college degree for more Nebraskans. It's called "Online Worldwide." This initiative offers all of the University's distance education programs through one website, www.nebraska.edu/online.
The University of Nebraska already offers more than 1,000 courses online in areas that include business, education, agriculture, biology, computer science, engineering, history, journalism, political science, youth development and many more. More than 80 fully accredited degree and certificate programs are available online to help Nebraskans be better prepared for the job market, advance their current careers, pursue a new career, or increase their earnings while balancing jobs, families and other obligations.
This initiative leverages the University's century-long history in distance education to increase access for all Nebraskans. It brings together excellent programs from the four campuses of the University in a way that is cost-effective and easier to access for prospective students. A degree from the University of Nebraska is a great value -- as you know if you've seen the cost of a degree from some of the for-profit institutions that advertise in Nebraska.
I hope Nebraskans will take advantage of this new opportunity to improve their quality of life through education. This is a great way to prepare for success in today's knowledge-based, technology-driven, global free market economy.
I applaud the University of Nebraska for this expanded education initiative, and I appreciate the outstanding partnership that we have with the University of Nebraska in our combined focus on education and the economic vitality of our state. The leadership of President J.B. Milliken, the four campus chancellors and the Board of Regents with the University of Nebraska has been superb.