A new group of business and community leaders are advocating for the University of Nebraska as it faces significant state budget cuts.
The One Nebraska Coalition plans to tell how important the University is to growing the state’s workforce, economy and quality of life.
Co-chairs of the Coalition include Mike Flood, former Speaker of the Legislature and Norfolk area senator.
“I don’t think anybody wants to minimize the size of the cash crunch for the state, and we recognize difficult decisions are going to be made, cuts are going to be made, to balance the budget,” Flood tells Nebraska Radio Networ, “but at the end of the day the University provides a great economic benefit to every county in the state.”
He says a 2016 economic study shows the University has an annual impact on the state of $3.9 billion, which is a 6-to-1 return on the state invests.
Other co-chairs are Tom Henning, CEO of Cash-Wa Distributing in Kearney; Leslie Andersen, President and CEO of Bank of Bennington; and Tonn Ostergard, CEO of Crete Carrier Corp. in Lincoln.
Flood says the University is a lifeline for the state.
“There are a lot of rural states that don’t have the university and post-secondary education options that Nebraska does for our small size,” he says. “I think that’s a very valuable opportunity for young people who want to stay in Nebraska.”
Graduates help grow businesses in the state, Flood says, while research helps improve agricultural products.
The University also saves lives with the work of the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
“We don’t have enough psychiatrists in Nebraska. The University of Nebraska Medical Center has a program to educate more behavioral health professionals – mid-levels, nurse practitioners, and physicians – who deliver psychiatric services,” Flood explains.
Governor Pete Ricketts has proposed cutting $11 million this year and $23 million next year from the university.
AUDIO: Mike Loizzo reports [:34]