University unveils 'Nebraska Promise'

by Melissa Lee, University of Nebraska | April 20, 2020

Image with caption: University of Nebraska President Ted Carter

University of Nebraska President Ted Carter

Calling the University of Nebraska's commitment to accessibility more important than ever during difficult economic times, President Ted Carter Friday unveiled a new program that will guarantee a tuition-free NU education to Nebraska students with family incomes of $60,000 or less.

The "Nebraska Promise" will take effect in fall 2020 and will guarantee that full-time resident undergraduates whose families have an adjusted gross income of $60,000 or less or who qualify for the federal Pell Grant can attend any NU campus and pay no tuition. The Nebraska Promise will apply to returning, transfer and new students, both on-campus and online, and requires no separate application beyond the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Program requirements

To be eligible for full tuition coverage under the Nebraska Promise, students must take at least 12 credit hours per semester and maintain a 2.5 grade point average. The Nebraska Promise will cover up to 30 credit hours per academic year. The program does not cover costs beyond tuition like fees, books, or room and board; each NU campus, however, offers numerous financial aid opportunities for students to help them cover the costs of their education.

The university has extended this year's priority FAFSA deadline to June 1 to provide additional flexibility for students and families.

Detailed information on the Nebraska Promise program is available in both English and Spanish. Carter urged students and families to contact University of Nebraska campuses for assistance with admissions and financial aid.

"Accessibility for the people of Nebraska has been core to the mission of our University for more than 150 years," Carter said in announcing the Nebraska Promise at Friday's Board of Regents meeting. Access and affordability have been key priorities for the students, faculty and staff of the university-wide strategic planning team charged with helping Carter chart a path forward for the NU system.

"Today we're doubling down on that promise," said Carter, who began as NU's eighth president in January. "We understand that in these uncertain times, many Nebraskans are rethinking every dollar. We want students and families to know that their University is here for them, that we want them as part of our family, and that we're doing everything we can to keep the promise of a college education within reach, no matter what their circumstance."

Gov. Pete Ricketts said: "The Nebraska Promise will help more of our young people afford college, graduate on time and get a great-paying job here in our state. I'm pleased to see the University taking this important step to keep costs down for Nebraskans, especially at a time when all of us are tightening our belts."

'Taking care of Nebraskans'

Carter praised the university's campus financial aid directors for their leadership and commitment to student access. With their help, Carter and the chancellors are continuing to explore opportunities to expand affordability.

The university's tuition rates -- the lowest in the Big Ten and well below peer averages on all campuses -- are highly competitive, and NU students graduate, on average, with less debt than their peers. About 75 percent of University of Nebraska undergraduates receive financial aid. Yet the global economic pain being caused by COVID-19 calls for an even broader effort to limit costs for NU's 51,000 students as well as future generations of students, Carter said. That will include a continued focus on student access, success and well-being.

"Even as we manage the challenge before us, the role of the University of Nebraska in providing a world-class education to students and meeting the economic needs of our state is as important now as ever," Carter said. "We're here to take care of Nebraskans. The Nebraska Promise is one more way for us to do that."

The university's existing need-based financial aid program, Collegebound Nebraska, guarantees tuition-free education for qualifying Pell-eligible Nebraska students. Nearly 3,000 students currently attend NU tuition-free under Collegebound Nebraska.

The expanded Nebraska Promise would cover approximately 1,000 additional current and future NU students. University leaders hope the program will attract Nebraskans who may not have thought they could afford a university education.

"The Nebraska Promise will create opportunities for more students than ever," said Board of Regents Chairman Jim Pillen of Columbus. "That's extra special in light of today's circumstances. I'm so proud of our university for giving hope to Nebraskans."

Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D., chancellor of the University of Nebraska at Omaha and University of Nebraska Medical Center, said: "Access is at the heart of the missions of both UNO and UNMC. Cost should not be a limiting factor for any Nebraska student who wants to change their life with a degree from one of our campuses. The Nebraska Promise further solidifies that commitment. I'm so pleased that we are doing everything in our power to welcome students to our campuses and help them complete their academic journeys."

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Sarah Bentley
April 20, 2020 at 1:01 PM

I am so thrilled to hear this. Think of how many students this will educate and without student debt. Gary Johnson created a similar program when I was living in New Mexico where all students who graduated from a New Mexico high school could attend a public university for free if meeting some GPA requirements. It was funded through the state lottery. Not sure how this will be funded, but the idealist in me is still VERY happy to hear.

Rosa Francis
April 20, 2020 at 12:07 PM

I would like to say thank you to The University and everyone who is contributing to help young people reach their goal, by helping pay part or all of their tuition. My family is very thankful and blessed for all you do.

Hailee Zimmerman
April 20, 2020 at 10:59 AM

Is this only for this year or is the entire college career for the student covered. Because I can’t afford the rest of the years to finish if it’s only one year covered.

Dione williams
April 20, 2020 at 10:48 AM

Does this apply to employees of UNMC.

Tere Batt
April 20, 2020 at 8:56 AM

Will employees of UN be able to use their tuition reimbursement for family as well as the Nebraska Promise?

Beth Beam
April 20, 2020 at 7:40 AM

An announcement like this should include how the "promise" is funded...especially in these difficult financial times.