Guide to Colleges & Universities in Nebraska (NE)

Education in Nebraska

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), over 50 colleges, universities and other institutions of higher education call the Cornhusker State home. These include:

  • Public four-year universities: 7
  • Public two-year universities: 8
  • Private 4-year, nonprofit: 18
  • Private 2-year, nonprofit: 4
  • Private 4-year, for-profit: 5

Colleges and universities in Nebraska

With its population of 1.8 million according to recent census data, Nebraska is one of the 10 least populated states in the U.S. despite being the 16th largest by area. The state’s largest city is Omaha, with the metropolitan area home to almost 409,000 people.

According to Census Quickfacts, the percentage of adults with bachelor’s degrees in Nebraska is 28.5 percent, very close to the national average of 28.8 percent. The Census Bureau estimates that in 2013, Nebraska also had a poverty rate of 13.2 percent of all residents, below the national average of 14.5 percent. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the state also had a 2.5 percent unemployment rate as of April 2015, the lowest in the nation. Further, the Census Bureau estimates that Nebraska median household income from 2009-2013 was $51,672, very close to the national average of $53,046.

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, however, real GDP increased by 0.7 percent in 2014 some of the lowest growth in the country. The state is a leader in the agriculture sector, and is a major producer of beef, pork, corn and soybeans; however, the agriculture industry contracted 0.9 percent in 2013-2014. Other important economic sectors in Nebraska include freight transport (by rail and truck), manufacturing, telecommunications, information technology and insurance. Although the state’s economic growth is currently among the lowest in the nation, the high education rate and household income as well as the low unemployment mean Nebraska can be an excellent place to live, work, and pursue higher education. More specifically, according to a 2014 National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) report, federal financial aid-eligible colleges and universities in Nebraska granted 30,046 degrees and certificates to 28,695 graduating students in 2011-12. Among those students, 75 percent earned their degrees at four-year institutions and 25 percent earned two-year degrees. The number of students earning certificates from less-than-two-year institutions was not statistically significant.

Here are some total undergraduate student enrollment numbers collected from the major public universities in Nebraska, current as of Fall 2013:

  • University of Nebraska at Omaha: 12,221
  • University of Nebraska-Lincoln: 19,979
  • Chadron State College: 2,453
  • Wayne State College: 2,969

The most recent data provided by the National Center for Education Statistics Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (NCES IPEDS) indicate that the state had 139,578 students enrolled in active postsecondary institutions in academic year 2012. Data from Nebraska’s Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education (CCPE) indicate 138,939 students in 2013, of which approximately 73.2 percent attend public institutions. According to the CCPE, of postsecondary students, the percentage of undergraduates attending college full time was 68.3 percent in fall 2013, and the percentage of undergraduates going to college part time was 31.7 percent in fall 2013.

Online Education in Nebraska

Online education has become increasingly prevalent in the last 15-plus years. At first, many people both in and outside of higher education were skeptical of the quality of online coursework when compared to traditional instruction. In the beginning, it’s possible that their opinions had a basis in truth. Like any new technology, however, quality and ease of use have improved quickly. Even traditional colleges and universities in Nebraska now offer courses in hybrid and fully online formats, whether at the individual course level or for entire programs and degrees.

Several Nebraska colleges and universities that offer online programs have been recognized by national ranking agencies. Here are a few Nebraska universities and colleges that offer online programs, alongside their national rank as calculated by U.S. News & World Report:

By 2008, nearly 25 percent of all postsecondary students in the United States were taking online courses, and by 2012 over 7.1 million postsecondary students nationally were taking at least one online course. According to the NCES, in colleges in Nebraska, over 23,000 students were enrolled exclusively in distance education courses. Nearly 22,000 more were enrolled in at least one distance education course. That’s over 32 percent of all post-secondary students in the state at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Top Jobs and Careers in Nebraska

Here’s a table of some of the top careers in Nebraska for which a degree is required or recommended, along with information about each and some degrees that can help job candidates in each field stand out from the crowd:

OccupationTop regionsWhy it’s hotNecessary skillsRelevant degrees
General and Operations ManagersStatewide, but particularly in metro areas like the Lincoln or Omaha metro areas.According to the BLS, the mean annual wage in this occupational category in Nebraska is $109,810.Active listening, reading comprehension, speaking, critical thinking and monitoringTypically, general and operations managers have a bachelor’s degree in business or a related area such as hospitality management, leisure studies, human resources, or finance. A master’s degree may be required for more advanced positions or at larger organizations.
Retail SalespersonsStatewide, particularly the Omaha and Lincoln metro areasAccording to the BLS, this occupational category has an annual mean wage of $25,050 in Nebraska. However, nearly 30,000 workers are employed in this category statewide.Active listening, persuasion, speaking, service orientation, negotiationThe level of education required depends on the industry and an individual’s goals. Those selling technical or very expensive items may need postsecondary coursework to familiarize them with the product and industry terminology. Those interested in advancing into management positions may need a college degree in an industry related topic or in management.
Registered nursesOpportunities exist statewideIn Nebraska, the mean annual wage for registered nurses is $57,550, well above the state’s average annual household income.Service orientation, active listening, social perceptiveness, coordination and monitoringIndividuals wishing to become more competitive for registered nursing positions may want to obtain a bachelor of science in nursing, although other educational paths are available. Registered nurses must also be licensed.
Bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerksThe Omaha and Lincoln metro areas.The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that this occupational category pays an annual mean wage of $32,990 in Nebraska.Active listening, reading comprehension, speaking, critical thinking, mathematicsFor many such positions only a high school diploma and on-the-job training are required. However, Individuals wishing to become more competitive for bookkeeping positions may want to become certified in bookkeeping and the software they will use on the job. Postsecondary coursework or a bachelor’s degree in accounting may also be useful, especially for individuals interested in advancing to positions as accountants or auditors.
Secretaries and Administrative AssistantsStatewide, but particularly in metro areas like Omaha and Lincoln.The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that this occupational category pays an annual mean wage of $31,430 in Nebraska.Writing, active listening, reading comprehension, speaking, time managementFor many such positions some coursework in basic office skills from a technical or community college and on-the-job training are required. Depending on the industry (medical, legal, etc.) then additional coursework to familiarize one with the technical terms may make one more competitive. Executive secretaries may need to complete a bachelor’s degree as well as several years of work experience.

Other job categories of note in Nebraska include office and administrative support occupations, sales and related occupations, transportation and material moving occupations and production occupations.

Financial Aid in Nebraska

In 2014-2015, tuition and fees costs in Nebraska averaged the following by institution type:

  • Public two-year in-state
    • 2004-2005: $2,218
    • 2014-2015: $2,749
  • Public four-year in-state
    • 2004-2005: $5,937
    • 2014-2015: $7,404
  • Private nonprofit four-year
    • 2004-2005: $18,079
    • 2014-2015: $22,998

Colleges and universities in Nebraska

In general, tuition rates in all categories in Nebraska are relatively low compared to other states. Obviously, however, individual institution’s prices will vary. Additionally, while students may not be able to control their college or university’s tuition, there are a variety of factors that are within an individual’s control. Strategies for making one’s education more affordable include:

  • Applying for in-state residency
  • Living close to campus for a short commute, and potentially biking or taking public transportation to campus
  • Taking some or all coursework online
  • Buying books and other supplies used or in e-formats when possible
  • Having roommates while in school, or living at home
  • Working part-time or full-time while in school
  • Applying for grants and scholarships, which unlike loans, do not have to be repaid

Most students who enroll at colleges and universities in Nebraska will fill out the Federal Application for Student Aid, or FAFSA, each year. The information recorded on the FAFSA is used by many different potential sources of state and federal student aid as well as to determine an individual student’s financial need and eligibility for programs of interest. In addition to the FAFSA, Nebraska has state financial aid programs. More information is available at the CCPE and EducationQuest Foundation websites, but options include:

  • Access College Early Scholarship Program for high school students
  • ACE Plus Scholarship Program for postsecondary students
  • Nebraska Opportunity Grant (Formerly the Nebraska State Grant)
  • ScholarshipQuest, a free database that contains over 2,000 Nebraska-based scholarships.

Proof of state residency and other requirements may have to be met to verify eligibility for state financial aid programs. In 2013-2014, Federal Direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans were being offered at an interest rate of 3.86 percent. Private student loans may also be available at a variety of interest rates, depending on an individual’s credit history and score. Currently, private loans may offer lower interest rates than federal loans do, but this may change in the future. Additionally, federal student loans typically have a wider variety of repayment options and other generous repayment benefits that may be better than those offered by private lenders.

For example, federal loans have consistent rules dictating one’s eligibility for forbearance and deferral. Individuals with federal student loans may also be able to participate in Pay As You Earn (PAYE), a repayment program that caps monthly loan payments at a set percentage of one’s income. PAYE also offers forgiveness on the balance after a set period of on-time payments. On the other hand, private lenders may or may not offer forbearance and deferral programs, and are not eligible for PAYE. However, some private lenders may offer similar benefits to federal loans, so it is always important to check the fine print and ask questions about any terms or conditions that seem unclear.

To find out more about some of the schools and programs available in Nebraska, be sure to check out the ones featured in our school listings below.

Article Sources


  1. Nebraska, College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics,
  2. May 2013 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Nebraska,
  3. “Nebraska Quickfacts,” The U.S. Census Bureau,,00
  4. “Broad Growth Across States in 2014,” Bureau of Economic Analysis,
  5. “A Stronger Nation through Higher Education, An Annual Report from Lumina Foundation,” Lumina Foundation,
  6. “Postsecondary Completers and Completions: 2011-12, Web Tables,” U.S. Department of Education, March 2014,
  7. “Table 304.10: Total fall enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by state or jurisdiction: Selected years, 1970 through 2012,” NCES IPEDS,
  8. “Section 1: Total Fall Enrollment and Total Fall Enrollment by Sector,” A Factual Look at Higher Education in Nebraska,
  9. “Section 2: Fall Enrollment by Student Level (Undergraduate and Graduate) and by Full-Time/Part-Time Classification,” A Factual Look at Higher Education in Nebraska,
  10. “Enrollment in Distance Education Courses, by State: Fall 2012, Web Tables,” U.S. Department of Education, June 2014,
  11. U.S. News & World Report, School Rankings: “University of Nebraska – Omaha,”, “University of Nebraska – Lincoln,”, “University of Nebraska – Kearney,”, “Nebraska Methodist College,”, “Creighton University,”, “Concordia University (NE),”, “Clarkson College,”, “Bellevue University,”
  12. “Online Education,” U.S. News & World Report,
  13. “General and Operations Managers,” Occupational Information Network,
  14. “Management Occupations,” Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2014, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,
  15. “Retail Salespersons,” Occupational Information Network,
  16. “Retail Sales Workers,” Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2014, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,
  17. “Registered Nurses,” Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2014, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,
  18. “Registered Nurses,” Occupational Information Network,
  19. “Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks,” Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2014, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,
  20. “Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks,” Occupational Information Network,
  21. “Secretaries and administrative assistants,” Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2014, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,
  22. “Secretaries and Administrative Assistants, Except Legal, Medical, and Executive,” Occupational Information Network,
  23. “Trends in Higher Education, Tuition and Fees by Sector and State over Time,” CollegeBoard,
  24. “Financial Aid,” Nebraska’s Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education ,
  25. “ScholarshipQuest,” EducationQuest Foundation,

school listing icon
Our Partner Listings