NU unveils full cost of attendance scholarship, stipend for perfect ACT performance

As NU launches a $5 million endowed President’s Scholarship, Metropolitan Community College unveils $3 million endowed scholarship from the Holland Foundation

By: - February 5, 2024 4:05 pm

Interim NU President Chris Kabourek, center, announces a new President’s Scholarship to fully cover students’ cost of attendance for them to attend the University of Nebraska, if they ace the ACT, at a news conference Monday Feb. 5, 2024, in Lincoln, Neb. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

LINCOLN — The University of Nebraska announced Monday it will pay Nebraska students who score perfectly on the ACT to obtain an NU education.

Interim NU President Chris Kabourek and Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen, center, are flanked, from left, by University of Nebraska at Omaha Chancellor Joanne Li and Regents Jack Stark of Omaha and Kathy Wilmot of Beaver City. Feb. 5, 2024. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

Interim NU President Chris Kabourek joined with regents, state senators, three NU chancellors and Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen to outline the inaugural President’s Scholarship for in-state students who obtain a 36 on the ACT. The scholarship will cover cost of attendance — including tuition, fees, books and room and board — and provide a $5,000 annual stipend “to pursue whatever your dream in life is.”

Kabourek said NU wants Nebraska students to list the university at the top of their list of desired colleges or universities, but many are leaving the state to continue their education. Moving forward, he’s said, NU can’t lose its “best and brightest.”

“If you sign with us, we’re going to go celebrate it just like we celebrate our five-star athletes,” Kabourek said at a news conference, explaining that many student-athletes receive a stipend.

Regent Tim Clare of Lincoln, chair of the NU Board of Regents. Feb. 5, 2024. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

Unlike the Regents Scholarship, a top scholarship that waives the cost of tuition for qualifying students, the new scholarship will pay NU for students’ attendance. Kabourek, who concurrently serves as NU’s chief financial officer, said the new business model will help with sustainability.

The President’s Scholarship begins from a $5 million endowment with hopes to grow in a future fundraising campaign to students who score 33 or above on the ACT.

NU Scholarship to combat ‘brain drain’

Kabourek and Pillen said the President’s Scholarship is a first step of many in combating the state’s brain drain issue, which they said they want to address as many young people, including college graduates, are leaving the state.

Between fall 2020 and fall 2022, about 20% of top ACT-scoring students chose NU, according to an NU spokesperson. In fall 2023, that figure was three top-performing students.

“Candidly, I’m embarrassed at that,” Kabourek said. “I’m embarrassed that we’re getting out-competed each and every day for our own talent.”

Pillen said anecdotally that of the 31 students with perfect ACT scores he honored last summer, 20 had already chosen a non-Nebraska institution.

Regent Tim Clare of Lincoln, chair of the NU Board of Regents, said that growing Nebraska is a “total team effort” and that he’s excited NU is doing more to prevent its high-caliber students from being enticed by other opportunities.

“We can settle for the status quo or we can do better and compete for every student,” he said.

Four R’s of success

Regent Rob Schafer of Beatrice, board vice chair, said it comes down to four simple words in working to fulfill NU’s mission of serving the state: recruit, retain, reward and retire.

University of Nebraska regents, chancellors and interim NU President Chris Kabourek join with state senators and Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen following the announcement of a new scholarship for top-performing Nebraska students. Feb. 5, 2024. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

NU must recruit, retain and reward its talent, he explained, with the hope they retire as Nebraskans.

“It’s early in the year and we’re just getting started, and we’re going to move Nebraska forward,” Schafer said.

Kabourek said even if NU can get just one student to choose Nebraska because of the scholarship, it will be a win because “who knows” their future — from farming or ranching to business to cancer research or nuclear physiology.

“Who knows what the story is or what the dreams of that student might be,” Kabourek said. “So if we can only get one student, it’s been a success in my opinion.”

Metropolitan Community College launches historic scholarship

On the same day NU launched its new scholarship, Metropolitan Community College announced its largest-ever endowed scholarship, courtesy of the Holland Foundation.

The $3 million endowed Dick and Mary Holland Scholarship will help create pathways to postsecondary education in skilled trades, health and technical sciences programs, beginning with the fall semester, a news release states. In addition to tuition, the program may provide funding for fees, books, required certifications, tools, equipment and supplies. 

The fund is anticipated to provide a minimum of 24 annual scholarships and prioritizes first-generation students, according to Amy Recker, executive director of the MCC Foundation.

“The endowed scholarship continues Dick and Mary’s legacy of giving,” said Deb Love, president of the Holland Foundation. “They were such observant, giving and caring people who always had a willingness in their hearts to help others.”

Recker described the gift as “truly transformational” and said MCC is grateful to the Holland Foundation for entrusting MCC “with this unprecedented investment in our students, programs and communities.”

— By Zach Wendling

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Zach Wendling
Zach Wendling

Zach rejoins the Nebraska Examiner after studying abroad in Antigua, Guatemala, following a yearlong Examiner internship. His coverage focus areas have included politics and government, health and well-being and higher education.