President’s Op-Ed: With bias for action, University can lead through a period of change

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Ted Carter
President, University of Nebraska System

“The institutions that succeed in this new environment will be the ones that are flexible, creative and decisive.”

The start of the fall semester is a special time for those of us in higher education – an opportunity to welcome a new class of future leaders and plan with energy and optimism for the year ahead.

In this most unusual of years, I’m especially grateful to see students back on the University of Nebraska campuses. I’m reminded of the qualities that have helped Nebraskans get through these challenging months: Our work ethic, resilience, our common sense and care for others.

As I’ve come to appreciate since becoming a new Nebraskan in January, these qualities set us apart from just about every other place. And they position us for a great future.

Even before COVID-19, higher education had reached a unique moment. The pandemic has only accelerated the need for colleges and universities to think differently about everything we do – the ways we create pathways for students, the ways we work, the ways we serve the urgent needs of our state and the workforce.

The institutions that succeed in this new environment will be the ones that are flexible, creative and decisive.

It is in this context that the University of Nebraska has built a plan for continued growth and success across our campuses – a plan to define who we are, what we will become and how we’ll get there.

Our plan is clear about our values, starting with our fundamental responsibility to provide students with an affordable and inclusive education that prepares them for success in life and work. It gives us specific and measurable targets. And executing it will require us to work harder and smarter than ever before.

In short, we’ll get things done the Nebraska way – with hard work, common sense and a bias for student-focused action.

For example, Nebraskans will see us take steps to mitigate costs for students and families to the greatest extent possible, like a move to a “block tuition” model that will incentivize students to take a full course load and stay on the path to a timely degree.

While they’re with us, students will have an enriching campus experience, filled with all the things we associate with collegiate life: the arts, internships, study abroad and athletics, on hold for now for our Huskers, Lopers and Mavericks, but not forever.

We will strengthen our partnerships with elected and business leaders to create more internship and job opportunities, so students stay right here in Nebraska to live, work and raise a family.

We’ll take care of our resources, including our buildings, the places where world-class teaching, research and learning take place.

Mindful that we can’t be all things to all people, we’ll invest in areas where Nebraska can make the greatest impact: water and agriculture, rural community vitality, infectious disease, national security, early childhood education.

We’ll make the best use of every dollar Nebraskans entrust to us. We’ll look for ways to get leaner, faster and more effective.

When we say we’re going to get things done, we mean it: In the past few days alone, we’ve announced a bold “New Nebraskan” program at UNK that will bring talent to our state through reduced tuition prices for nonresident students. And UNL’s Institute for Agriculture and Natural Resources has unveiled a statewide effort to support the growth and prosperity of Nebraska’s rural communities. When rural Nebraska is successful, after all, the entire state is successful.

And this is only the beginning.

Nebraska is special because we are “one team.” From the university, to our elected leaders, to the business and agricultural communities, to Nebraskans across our state, we understand the value and impact of affordable, accessible, outstanding higher education.

That unity doesn’t exist everywhere – and at a time of change and challenge, it’s Nebraska’s competitive advantage. Our state is primed for growth, and the University of Nebraska can help make that happen. We are ready to create the future together.

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