With many accomplishments, university sets higher goals to benefit students, Nebraskans – UNK News
Nebraskans have accomplished much despite the extraordinary challenges of recent years. Looking around the country, I have no doubt our state is in a stronger position than most as we weather the pandemic.
I’m proud to say that the University of Nebraska system is part of that success story. When COVID-19 hit, we acted decisively for the benefit of the state. We created the Nebraska Promise, providing a tuition-free education to eligible Nebraskans. We launched a plan to partner with heads of state to repair our aging buildings while saving taxpayers’ money.
And, we have carefully considered our budget to stay ahead of the financial challenges created by COVID-19. Since 2020, we’ve cut spending by $50 million and, as recently approved by the Board of Regents, we’ve taken the rare step of freezing tuition for every University of Nebraska student for two consecutive years. The tuition freeze takes on added significance at a time when Nebraskanians have faced 40-year-old high inflation at the grocery store and at the gas pump.
While we have accomplished many things together, we also know there are opportunities to create an even greater impact for Nebraska students, families, and communities.
Our state urgently needs more nurses and doctors, teachers, engineers and entrepreneurs. We continue to lose too many of our best and brightest, and too many Nebraskans have failed to earn post-secondary credentials that would help them advance in the job market. There is a strong demand for innovations in areas such as agriculture, medicine and national defense that will keep the people of Nebraska safe and healthy.
In college, these are questions we think about every day. That’s why, just two years after the release of our action plan for the University of Nebraska system, we’ve added ambitious new goals to directly serve students and our state.
Each includes measurable goals built around our core mission of providing affordable, quality education for Nebraska’s future workforce. For instance:
- With the economy top of mind for Nebraskanians, we will continue to find efficiencies in our budget. After adjusting for inflation, university spending from tuition fees and tax dollars is the same today as it was ten years ago. But this is a time of economic uncertainty. The best way to insulate ourselves is to look within, be careful in our planning, and identify additional cost savings, growth opportunities, and partnerships with the private sector.
- We will find other ways to reduce costs for students, starting with improving our four-year graduation rates to limit student debt and get them into the workforce faster. We will work closely with private donors to create more scholarships and be innovative in reducing costs beyond tuition. We are moving closer to our goal of saving students $10 million by replacing traditional textbooks with free or low-cost digital course materials.
- We will ensure that every student benefits from a paid internship, study abroad or other experiential learning opportunity. My time at the US Naval Academy showed me that nothing can steer a student toward a career or field of study like real-life experience. The same is true at the University of Nebraska. No student should graduate without having had the opportunity for real-time, hands-on learning. Our workforce depends on it.
- We will attract and retain more talent in Nebraska by putting people first. The new 988 Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a valuable resource for Nebraskanians and I thank Governor Ricketts for promoting it. On our campuses as well, students, faculty and staff have identified expanded mental health services as a critical priority, and we will direct resources accordingly.
Nebraskans have shown that even when there are challenges, we are not afraid to think differently about how to succeed. We have a chance to do even more to stand out from the field – and, working together, make Nebraska the place where everyone wants to live, work and learn.
President, University of Nebraska System