To the Faculty and Staff of the University of Nebraska System:
Congratulations on another successful academic year. This weekend our campuses sent some 7,000 University of Nebraska graduates on to the next steps in their journeys – an accomplishment in any circumstance, but especially so in what has been a truly unprecedented period for our community. I am grateful for your efforts.
I want to draw your attention to an announcement we made last week that we are freezing tuition rates across the University of Nebraska system for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school year. This will be our first back-to-back, across-the-board tuition freeze in recent memory, and in a challenging time, we hope it will send a message of care and commitment to those we serve.
The COVID-19 pandemic, as you know, has dramatically altered the higher education landscape. The impact on our industry will be transformative. Institutions that are unwilling or unable to pivot are at risk. Those that are nimble and bold – and the University of Nebraska will be among them – will thrive.
Among the challenges facing colleges and universities nationwide is a potential decline in enrollment as students and families deliberate their options. According to recent surveys, a number of graduating seniors are rethinking their college plans. Some are considering attending a school closer to home. Others may be weighing whether to come to college at all.
For the University of Nebraska – where tuition revenue and state tax dollars fund the bulk of our operations – any significant enrollment decline could have a sobering impact on our budget.
The Chancellors and I have every reason to believe the University of Nebraska can rise above the challenge. After all, much has changed over the past few months, but what has not changed is the incredible value of a University of Nebraska education, and in particular the in-person learning that enriches the lives of so many of our young people.
To meet the challenge, we must take bold steps now. That’s one reason why several weeks ago, we launched the Nebraska Promise, a financial aid program that will cover full tuition costs for low- and middle-income Nebraska students. Since its launch, we have seen a surge of almost 1,000 freshman and transfer applications across our campuses.
We also announced our plan to be open for on-campus, in-person learning in the fall semester. That announcement has provided a degree of hope and predictability that many Nebraskans need, and I’m proud that your ingenuity and expertise will lead us to a safe reopening.
And now, we’re providing further clarity for students and families who won’t have to wonder what they will pay in tuition to attend our campuses. My hope is these efforts show Nebraskans that we are invested first and foremost in the affordability, accessibility and excellence of a University of Nebraska education.
Challenging as this pandemic is, after all, it will end. Job growth will return to Nebraska. When it does, we need to be ready with a strong pipeline of talented graduates. A shortage of skilled workers would harm our economy for years to come. We can’t afford not to take steps like the tuition freeze and Nebraska Promise.
Each of us has a role to play in building our future. All 14,000 of us, in fact, should think of ourselves as enrollment officers for our University. Whether we teach students in classrooms, keep our campuses beautiful or our buildings running, serve in health care or housing – we all contribute to making the University of Nebraska the destination of choice for the young people of our state.
With our collective efforts, we will emerge from this period in a position of strength. Thank you for all you are doing for current and future generations of students of the University of Nebraska.
President, University of Nebraska System