Planning for College

Low Cost, High Graduation Rate

Nebraska is a Best Buy

  • Fiske Guide to Colleges Best Buy School, 2018
  • Kiplinger’s Best Values in Public Colleges, 2016
  • The National Jurist #1 Best Value Law School in the U.S., 2016 and 2015
  • U.S. Dept. of Education College Scorecard Low Costs, High Graduation Rate
Commencement Ceremony.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has been consistently designated as a best buy, best value, or a most affordable comprehensive national university over the years by publications such as the Princeton Review, Kiplinger's, and the Fiske Guide to Colleges. Nebraska takes great pride in our level of academic quality and student life in combination with our level of affordability. A degree from Nebraska remains a great value!

Qualifying for a Federal Pell Grant

  • Eligibility for a Pell Grant is based on your family's "expected family contribution" toward the cost of college. This is determined by a formula that considers your family financial situation, family size and the number of children in college, the cost of attendance and your enrollment status (full- or part-time). The FAFSA is required to determine your eligibility.
  • You must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine if you are eligible for the Federal Pell Grant. For assistance filing the FAFSA, contact Husker Hub at huskerhub@unl.edu or 402-472-2030. If you are in high school, your high school counselor or the EducationQuest Foundation may also help.
  • To be considered for Nebraska Promise tuition assistance, you must complete your FAFSA by April 1 (June 1, 2020 due to COVID-19) and complete the financial aid process (any necessary follow up paperwork required that is requested by the financial aid office after you initially file the FAFSA) by June 1 of the calendar year prior to fall enrollment. But don't wait until the last minute. Funds are available on a "first come, first served" basis. So, the sooner you submit your information, the better.
  • After you complete the FAFSA, you will receive a Student Aid Report which will tell you if you're eligible for the Federal Pell Grant and the amount of your expected family contribution.
 

Federal Pell Grant Assistance is Different for Each Student

  • In 2019, Federal Pell Grants could range from $650 to $6,195 for the standard academic year (fall/spring). Most students who receive this federal grant receive about $3,000.
  • As long as you remain eligible for the Federal Pell Grant, meet the annual April 1 application deadline, remain a full-time student and meet academic standards, you will continue to qualify for Nebraska Promise assistance throughout your undergraduate education. This means that you would have enough scholarships and grants to pay your full tuition for up to 15 credit hours each fall/spring semester.
    • But don't forget about summer! Summer is a great opportunity to get ahead on your degree so you can graduate early, access additional experiential programs like study abroad or internships, or catch up on more difficult coursework. At Nebraska, you can access additional Federal Pell Grant funds for the summer plus the Summer Tuition Grant for Nebraska Residents! If you enroll in at least 6 credits for the summer, these funding sources in combination can usually cover your full tuition plus your housing and meals for the summer! For more information, visit our summer financial aid page.

Nebraska Promise

  • Nebraska Promise is the University's affordability promise to students that provides, at a minimum, that tuition costs will be covered (up to 30 credit hours per academic year) by federal, state, and institutional scholarships and grants during the standard fall/spring term for students who meet certain academic and family income qualifications.
  • In order to qualify, a student must be a resident of Nebraska, enroll full-time (12 credit hours or more per fall/spring semester) as a degree-seeking undergraduate student, be a recipient of the Federal Pell Grant or come from a family with an annual income of $60,000 (AGI) or below, and maintain a grade point average of at least 2.500.
  • In order to be considered for the program, eligible students are automatically identified by the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid through the annual Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) that can be filed at www.fafsa.gov. Apply by April 1st (June 1, 2020 due to COVID-19) and complete your financial aid file by June 1st to be considered. The income threshold to qualify is based on family income of $60,000 Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) or below or Federal Pell Grant eligibility, which is determined by a federal calculation and takes a number of factors into account, such as family size, etc.
 

"Hitting the Books" and Other Ways to Cut College Costs

  • There are many ways to save money on college. Most schools offer merit scholarships to academically talented students. Some states do, too. You may also qualify for a grant or scholarship if you pursue a particular talent such as music or journalism. Work-study is another popular option.
  • Starting a college savings account early is always a good idea. Fortunately, the Nebraska College Savings Plan is rated one of the best "529" plans in the nation. It offers tax-saving advantages, applies to schools across the country and gives you multiple investment options.
  • The point is, if you're serious about getting a college education, money shouldn't keep you from reaching that goal.

College Planning Resources

EducationQuest

The EducationQuest Foundation is a nonprofit organization headquartered in Lincoln with a mission to improve access to higher education in Nebraska. The organization provides free college planning services, need-based scholarships programs, college access grants for high schools, college access resources for middle schools, and outreach services for community agencies. They have locations in Omaha, Lincoln, Kearney, and Scottsbluff. If you need help filing your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), EducationQuest is a great resource.

EducationQuest also provides a free database that contains over 2,000 Nebraska-based scholarships through ScholarshipQuest.

TeamMates

TeamMates is a mentoring program that began in Nebraska under the leadership of Dr. Tom Osborne, former head football coach for Nebraska, and his wife Nancy. The program matches youth with mentors and offered scholarships that range from $1,000 to full tuition to attend college. 

College Possible

The College Possible organization has a location in Omaha that serves more than 700 area high school students through partner high schools. College Possible makes college admission and success possible for low-income students through an intensive curriculum of coaching and support. College Possible has near-peer coaching, research-based curriculum, a peer support network, and a commitment to college success.

Nebraska College Preparatory Academy (NCPA)

The Nebraska College Preparatory Academy prepares first-generation and low-income students from certain Nebraska high schools to achieve personal and academic excellence. This is achieved through academic counseling and support, leadership building and personal development throughout high school and college, as well as financial assistance to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and/or Metropolitan Community College. NCPA provides academic, social, and college preparation through the Pillars of Excellence: Knowledge, Character, and Commitment.

Create Your Road Map

You can create a profile with College Board and save all of your college planning activities.

Make a plan for college!

College Affordability and Transparency

There is no shortage of tools available on the internet at your fingertips or organizations across the country to help you make your college choice. It can be an overwhelming experience! We have listed some of the best regarded tools below and encourage every prospective student to meet with faculty, tour campus, and discuss their academic program with their admissions counselor or academic department. We also encourage you to ask questions about scholarships and financial aid as you determine the best financial fit. You can contact the Husker Hub at Nebraska to ask any questions related to the business of being a Husker, such as registration, scholarships, financial aid, and billing.

College Affordability and Transparency

College Scorecard

The College Scorecard includes essential information, by college, about that college's costs, its graduation rates, and the average amount its students borrow, all in a standardized easy-to-read format. It is designed to help you compare colleges and choose on that is well-suited to your individual needs. It provides high-level information to help you begin your college search before you start applying. Once you are applying and even finalizing your college search, it is important to understand the value of the college you choose is found in more than a few statistics. At Nebraska, we encourage you to ask many questions with your academic program. We want to ensure that you find a great academic and financial fit at Nebraska, where we believe you can find the greatest value!

College Scorecard

College Navigator

The College Navigator is an interactive website that allows you to explore and compare different features of colleges, including programs and majors, admissions considerations, campus crime statistics, and more. This tool is a broader, but still high-level, option to help you navigate your college choices.

College Navigator

College Financing Plan

The College Financing Plan is a template provided by the federal government and used by some schools to present your financial aid offer. Nebraska participates in this program and presents you with your College Financing Plan in MyRED. The Financing Plan provides personalized information on financial aid and net costs as well as general information on institutional outcomes - all in a standardized format. This tool provides an easy way to make clear comparisons among financial aid offers that you may receive. Not all schools participate in this program, so if you are comparing schools, you can ask to view this to make your comparisons. At Nebraska, we still encourage you to view and monitor your comprehensive financial aid offer that is mailed to you as a freshman and updated in MyRED. You should receive email updates when scholarships or financial aid is adjusted. You don't want to miss an update if you are offered an additional scholarship, so watch your mail and email closely!

Net Price Calculator Center

The Net Price Calculator Center provides you with a tool to explore the net price of any given college - that is, the price after subtracting the scholarships and grants you are likely to receive. Then, you can easily compare estimated net prices across institutions that you are considering.

Nebraska's Net Price Calculator Federal Net Price Calculator Center

Education Savings Plans and Tax Credits

Qualified Tuition Programs, or QTPs (also known as 529 Plans)

A QTP/529 plan is established by a state or school so that you can either prepay or save up to pay education-related expenses. Once you’re in college or career school and you withdraw money from your account to pay your education expenses, the money you withdraw will not be taxed. You can learn more about 529 plans across the country at https://www.collegesavings.org/.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln accepts 529 plan payments to make a payment on a student account. For more information, visit https://bursar.unl.edu/paying-your-bill-with-college-savings-plan-529-plan.

Nebraska Educational Savings Trust (NEST)

A 529 plan is a tax-advantaged savings plan designed to encourage saving for future education costs. 529 plans, legally known as “qualified tuition plans,” are sponsored by states, state agencies, or educational institutions and are authorized by Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code. Nebraska's 529 plan is the Nebraska Educational Savings Trust, or NEST. Anyone can open an account to save for their loved one or even themselves. For more information about how to open a NEST account, visit https://www.nest529direct.com/.

Coverdell Education Savings Accounts

A Coverdell Education Savings Account allows up to $2,000 a year to be put aside for a student’s education expenses (elementary, secondary, or college or career school). For more information, you can talk to a personal financial advisor or your local bank to see if you qualify as well as what is offered and details about the program. More information about Coverdell ESA's are available on the IRS website.

Student Loan Interest Deduction

You can take out a tax deduction for the interest paid on student loans that you took out for yourself, your spouse, or your dependent. This benefit applies to all loans (not just federal student loans) used to pay for higher education expenses. The maximum deduction can reduce you taxes by up to $2,500 per year.

UGMA and UTMA Accounts

The Uniform Gifts to Minors Act (UGMA) and/or Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA) accounts allow you to invest or transfer assets to a minor that can be used for a child’s education while taking advantage of the child’s potentially lower tax rate. While these accounts are not specifically designed to provide financing for college, many investors use them for this purpose because the assets become available to the minor when he or she reaches the age of majority specified under the state's UGMA or UTMA law (the age of majority in Nebraska is 19). Keep in mind that these accounts may affect the amount of financial aid a child receives. Therefore, some parents invest in their own name instead of the child’s because when it comes to qualifying for financial aid, parental income is prioritized lower than the child’s. Custodians may, as permitted by law, use assets for the benefit of the child prior to completing financial aid forms; hence, parents receive the tax benefit and avoid losing financial aid. Consult a financial planner or tax professional for more information.

Using IRA Withdrawals for College Costs

According to the IRS (https://www.irs.gov/publications/p970#idm140137342329936), you may withdraw from an IRA to pay higher education expenses for yourself, your spouse, your child, or your grandchild. If you do so, you will owe federal income tax on the amount withdrawn, but would not be subject to the early withdrawal penalty. Since these funds are reported on your taxes as income, if you are a parent on the FAFSA these funds would also be reported on the FAFSA as income and may impact eligibility for future financial aid.

Other Higher Education Federal Tax Benefits*

There are two tax credits for higher education expenses that help offset the costs of college (tuition, fees, books, supplies, and equipment) by reducing the amount of your income tax:

  • (1) The American Opportunity Credit allows you to claim up to $2,500 per student per year for the first four years of school as the student works toward a degree or similar credential.
  • (2) The Lifetime Learning Credit allows you to claim up to $2,000 per student per year for any college or career school tuition and fees, as well as for books, supplies, and equipment that were required for the course and had to be purchased from the school.
  • *Note: even if you normally wouldn't file a tax return because of your income level, be sure to do so! If you don't, you could miss out on higher education tax credits that would put money in your pocket. Consult a tax professional for more information.