With annual gifts up to $560,000, the Nelnet Foundation helps the Learn to Dream Scholarship unleash potential in low-income students.

Since 2007, the Nelnet Foundation has partnered with Union Bank & Trust and Southeast Community College to make the dream of college a reality for Nebraska high school students who have financial barriers through the Learn to Dream Scholarship.

With the program, students who qualified for free or reduced lunch could attend Southeast Community College for one year (30 credit hours) without paying tuition or fees. In 2018, the Acklie Charitable Foundation joined the partnership and increased the scholarship opportunity to two years (60 credit hours) without paying tuition or fees.

Since its inception, the program has sent nearly 7,000 aspiring students to college – children who struggled to financially access higher education without the help of the Learn to Dream Scholarship. Many of these students choose to complete a certificate program or a two-year degree, while others continue to a four-year program through academic transfer.

Education is at the core of our company, so this partnership is deeply important to Nelnet. It makes an impact in our community – but it makes an even bigger impact in the individual lives of thousands of students.

Ben Kiser

President, Nelnet Foundation

A Powerful Tool for School Counselors

The size and funding power of the Learn to Dream Scholarship program make it an appealing, reliable option for high school counselors who are tasked with finding the best path forward for each student they advise – regardless of their financial situation.

One example of this new student-helping power is Kelley Winter – a Lincoln Southeast High School counselor who has been referring students to the Learn to Dream Scholarship for 10 years. According to Winter, there are several reasons the program is so popular with her and her peers.

“It now pays for two years of college, which is a game changer for us”, said Winter. “Dreamers can use the scholarship, which allows us to expand its impact. Plus, with Learn to Dream, students can use FAFSA grant money on top of the scholarship, giving struggling students even more financial assistance.”

Over the last five years, Lincoln Southeast High School has referred hundreds of students to the program.

Students leave my office with huge smiles on their face, knowing they’re getting a scholarship. The idea that they’re being recognized is amazing.

Kelley Winter

Counselor, Lincoln Southeast High School

So Many Success Stories

Thanks to this widespread and generous support of the Learn to Dream Scholarship program, student success stories have spread across Lincoln and beyond.

Scholarship recipients have pursued degrees and careers in fields including health sciences, business, information technology, public safety, electronics, manufacturing, culinary arts, transportation, and construction.

One example of a Learn to Dream success story is Hazey Nieveen, an ambitious Lincoln Southeast High School graduate who was awarded a Learn to Dream scholarship after receiving her high school degree at the end of her junior year.

Hazey was a first-generation student from a family that had never attempted college. As a 17 year old, she was working 40 hours a week to support herself. Her counselor connected her with the Learn to Dream Scholarship, giving her the financial help to begin college, as well as resources and information to make sure she made it through successfully.

“The Learn to Dream program has been amazing”, said Nieveen. “I was introduced to other people who had the same struggles as me and appreciated everything that was provided to us.”

Thanks to the program, Hazey completed her associate’s degree at Southeast Community College and is now waiting to begin a bachelor’s degree program in social work from one of Nebraska’s top schools – Nebraska Wesleyan University.

If I didn’t have Learn to Dream to help cover most of my costs, I wouldn’t have made it more than one semester. I’ll be forever grateful for the opportunities I received.

Hazey Nieveen

Learn to Dream Scholarship Recipient


Kyle Danielson

Associate Creative Writer

Kyle Danielson is an associate creative writer for Nelnet. He works on a number of different writing projects for Nelnet's vast array of businesses. Kyle's favorite part of his job is that he can (sometimes) incorporate horrendous puns into his writing. In his free time, Kyle likes to inhale ramen and hide from the sun playing video games.