Colleges focus their efforts on attracting rural Nebraskans

Sprinkled throughout Nebraska’s wide-open spaces reside potential college students, and they are in demand.
    As state money for higher education becomes tighter, college enrollments and the tuition they bring become more critical. That means aggressively recruiting kids at schools surrounded by the Great Plains. Every student counts.
    “We’re in a very competitive marketplace,’’ Cindy Cammack, admissions director at Peru State College, told the Omaha World-Herald. “Everyone wants to grow, and it has to happen some way. But it’s challenging.’’
    Some, including the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, seek to pick up their rural game with coffee shop visits, recruiters based in towns and college readiness programs provided by Nebraska Extension offices across the state.
    Connecting with a recruiter or with students already enrolled, or getting the right vibe from a campus tour, are keys to hooking a high schooler.
    Seeing a spot on campus that feels right — such as the rodeo arena for a young cowboy or the multicultural affairs center for a minority student — also can make a difference.
    UNL has advantages. Many Nebraska high school students have parents, aunts, brothers and sisters who went there.
    And everyone knows about the magnetic draw of Big Red football. But UNL also has a disadvantage. It’s a big place packed with 26,000 students, and that can be intimidating for anyone, especially people used to looking out the window and seeing the Plains all the way to the horizon.
    Sky Morgan, a UNL senior from Winnebago, said an uncle went to the flagship campus in Lincoln. “Yeah, be a Husker,’’ he advised. She also recalled a tour of UNL when she was in high school. It felt right.

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