Chairman Murman and members of the Committee, good afternoon. I am Chris Kabourek and I am Interim President of the University of Nebraska.
Thank you for the opportunity to share the University’s support for LB1388. We appreciate Senator Bostar’s leadership in bringing this bill forward and starting an important conversation about how all of us can work together to stop Nebraska’s brain drain and keep more of our homegrown talent in our state.
Seven days ago we had the honor of standing with Governor Pillen and our Board of Regents in announcing a new University scholarship for Nebraska students who score a perfect 36 on the ACT. Mr. Chairman and Senator Walz, we were so happy to have you there as well, along with Senator Bostar and Senator Ibach.
Our new scholarship will cover the total cost of attendance, plus stipends. As I said at our announcement, I am embarrassed that today the University is losing 80 percent of those perfect ACTs to other institutions. I want to see us flip that ratio on its head and get 80 percent of Nebraska’s 5-star students to stay right here in our great state.
To do that, we absolutely have to get more competitive on scholarships. Nebraska’s best and brightest have their choice of where to go to school, and we need to send a strong message that we want them here and we are not satisfied to be outcompeted for own kids.
This new President’s Scholarship is part of our strategy to be more competitive. I believe that’s what Senator Bostar envisions with the Excellence in Education Act and I couldn’t be more pleased that we are aligned on our goal to keep Nebraska talent in Nebraska.
Of course, our vision goes beyond the top ACT scorers. One of our immediate priorities is reconnecting with all Nebraska students and families to let them there is a place for them at the University of Nebraska. You don’t need to score a 36 on the ACT to be the next great cancer doctor, or entrepreneur, or farmer. That is why we are renewing our passion for connecting with Nebraskans from St. Paul to Glenvil to Omaha and everywhere in between. Every Nebraska kid is worth our time and effort.
I wish I could read to you all the emails I’ve gotten in the past week from Nebraskans who are excited to hear about our new scholarship and the positive message it is sending to their children. I want to share just one with you, a note I received on Friday from a colleague and friend of mine.
His wife was driving the kids to school and telling them about how if they score well on the ACT, they can get a full ride to the University of Nebraska. Their oldest daughter, who is 13 and has had her heart set on Notre Dame, declared that now she wants to go to Nebraska based on this new information. She’s even checked out an ACT study book from the library. And then her 10-year-old brother piped in saying this sounds a great idea and he should start studying more.
Senators, our kids are listening. When we send the message loud and clear that we want them to stay in Nebraska, they hear us.
I’m proud that the steps we are taking together are making a difference for our young people. But we are just getting started. We have many more opportunities to work hand-in-hand – higher education, elected leaders, the philanthropic community, leaders in business and agriculture – to attract and retain more top talent so we build a vibrant workforce and economy for generations to come.
We look forward to being a strong partner with you in this effort. I ask for your support on LB1388 to make an important investment in our kids’ dreams.
Thank you again for your time, and I would be happy to answer any questions.