Gov. Pillen, University Unveil New Scholarship for Top ACT Scoring Students


Laura Strimple, (402) 580-9495

Jacy Schafer, (531) 510-8529

Melissa Lee, University of Nebraska

(402) 580-3297/


Gov. Pillen, University Unveil New Scholarship for Top ACT Scoring Students


LINCOLN, NE -- As part of a comprehensive plan to reverse Nebraska’s brain drain and compete more effectively for top talent, Governor Jim Pillen today joined University of Nebraska (NU) Interim President Chris Kabourek and representatives from the Board of Regents in announcing a new scholarship for the state’s top ACT scorers. The program will cover the total cost of undergraduate attendance, plus stipends, at any NU campus.


Beginning in the 2024-25 academic year, the Office of the President will fund a new Nebraska Presidential Scholars Program that will cover tuition, fees, books, housing and all other costs of attendance, plus a $5,000 annual stipend, for any Nebraska student who scores a perfect 36 on the ACT. The announcement from the Governor and university was widely praised by agricultural, philanthropic, business and elected leaders who endorsed the vision to compete for Nebraska’s homegrown talent to meet the future needs of the state.


“This is a simple, but powerful, message to our best and brightest young people: We want you on Team Nebraska,” said Gov. Pillen. “As I travel around the state and talk to business and community leaders, something I hear again and again is that we need to do a better job of competing for talent. With the Presidential Scholars Program, we’re going to compete. I’m proud to join with President Kabourek and the Board of Regents in putting this bold plan forward.”


Kabourek said: “Governor Pillen has challenged all of us to step up and work together to solve Nebraska’s brain drain. The University of Nebraska needs to play a leading role and the Presidential Scholars Program is part of our answer to the Governor’s call. I’m embarrassed that so many of Nebraska’s best and brightest are leaving our state because they are enticed by more competitive offers. This new scholarship sends a strong message that we want these kids to stay in Nebraska and we are going to go compete for them.”


Kabourek said NU is immediately launching a fundraising effort as part of its ongoing Only in Nebraska campaign to raise private funds to create a permanent Presidential Scholars endowment that will extend the program beyond those who achieve a 36 ACT. Ultimately, the university’s goal is to provide total cost of attendance scholarships to all Nebraska students who score a 33 or above.


“My message to every Nebraska student and every parent is that if you’re willing to work hard, the University of Nebraska will do everything we can to help you become the best version of yourself and get a great education that will prepare you for success,” said Kabourek.


On average over the past three years, about 600 Nebraska students a year score at least a 33, including about 30 who score a perfect 36. But less than half of those students enroll at the University of Nebraska, including only 22 percent of students with a 36. Meanwhile, Nebraska faces a persistent brain drain, at a time when the state urgently needs more workforce to fill current and future jobs.


The university’s goal is to enroll 80 percent of students who score a 33 or higher, Kabourek shared. Furthermore, he said that elite academic performers who choose the University of Nebraska should be celebrated the way student-athletes are, with signing ceremonies and public attention to signal Nebraska’s pride in retaining them in the state.


“When we say we want the University of Nebraska to compete, this is exactly what we mean. I am thrilled that we are taking bold action to keep more of Nebraska’s best and brightest here in our state,” said Board of Regents chairman Tim Clare of Lincoln. “This is a win for our university, for students, our workforce and Nebraska’s national profile.”


Vice Chairman of the Board Rob Schafer of Beatrice added, “The Presidential Scholars Program is exactly the right move, at exactly the right time, to address the workforce challenges facing our state. I thank Governor Pillen for his leadership in rallying all of us around this urgent issue, and I congratulate President Kabourek for his decisive action in sending a clear message to Nebraska’s talented young people that we want them to stay.”


The university is maintaining its prestigious Regents Scholarship, which covers full tuition costs for high academic performers, as well as its investment in need-based financial aid through the Nebraska Promise program, which provides free tuition for Nebraska students whose families earn $65,000 or less per year.


Kabourek, along with members of the Board of Regents, will join Governor Pillen on a road show this spring to visit Nebraska high schools and community events to promote the Presidential Scholars Program and other opportunities at the university, encouraging students to stay in the state to earn their degrees and start their careers.


“Together as ‘One Nebraska’, we’re doing big things to create opportunities for the next generation – a new engineering facility in Lincoln to produce the future STEM workforce, a new health complex in Kearney to meet the healthcare needs of our rural communities, and a world-class medical center, just to name a few,” said Gov. Pillen. “The university is at its strongest when it’s focused on priorities that matter to Nebraskans.”


In traveling the state, the Governor and university leaders will also engage with business and community leaders about expanding internship and job opportunities for students, through initiatives like Intern Nebraska and others.




What Others Are Saying:


“As the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s student body president, I know scholarships absolutely matter when students are deciding where to go to college. It was definitely a factor in me and my brother choosing the University of Nebraska. Students have so many options, and they need to hear loud and clear that the University of Nebraska wants them to attend and is willing to invest in their success. The new President’s Scholarship is a huge step. At a time when we need to do all we can to grow and compete, this program will make sure the University of Nebraska is front and center on the radar of our state’s top-tier students.”

--Paul Pechous, University of Nebraska-Lincoln student body president and junior from Omaha majoring in special education


“None of us should be satisfied that so many of our all-star students are getting away. I’m glad to see us make a bold move that will put the University of Nebraska in the driver’s seat in retaining the talented young people who are the future leaders of our state.”

--University of Nebraska Regent Jack Stark, District 2


“Throughout my career in public service, I’ve always believed deeply in the value that a strong University of Nebraska brings to every corner of our state, including my community of Norfolk. The reality is that in today’s competitive environment, every day that we as a university don’t take a step forward is a day we risk falling behind. The President’s Scholarship sends a great message to Nebraskans and will help more of our young people take advantage of the amazing opportunities available in Norfolk and across our state to get an education, start their career and grow their family right here in The Good Life.”

--University of Nebraska Regent Jim Scheer, District 3


“As a native Nebraskan, alum and young professional in Omaha, I want to see the University do everything we can to create opportunities for future generations of students. This new scholarship will help us keep talented Nebraskans in our state, which will impact families and our communities well into the future. I’m so excited that we are taking this positive step forward on behalf of students.”

--University of Nebraska Regent Elizabeth O’Connor, District 4


“This is great news for kids all across our state, including the rural students and families I represent. The President’s Scholarship says that if you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and work hard, the University of Nebraska will do everything we can to help you succeed. Thank you Governor Pillen and President Kabourek for leading the charge.”

--University of Nebraska Regent Paul Kenney, District 6


“This is a wonderful message to Nebraskans about the positive momentum at the university and what we are doing to support all students. I truly believe that if you work hard, you will earn your opportunities. The President’s Scholarship is a great way to keep the University of Nebraska at the top of the list for the talented and hard-working young people of our state. I’m so excited to help spread the word across our Western Nebraska communities.”

--University of Nebraska Regent Kathy Wilmot, District 7


“A vibrant state like Nebraska needs its promising high school graduates to come to our university. We want to invest in our future by investing in our young people. We are excited to work with the Governor in expanding financial aid and support through new scholarships and financial aid options.”

--University of Nebraska Regent Barb Weitz, District 8


“By aligning on this big idea, Governor Pillen, President Kabourek and the Board of Regents are positioning the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to be more competitive nationally as we work to recruit, retain and graduate Nebraska’s best and brightest minds. This scholarship program is a significant investment in Nebraskans, one that opens doors to the robust experience and boundless career opportunities available to students who graduate from Nebraska’s R1, Big Ten, flagship university.”

--University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Rodney Bennett


“Here at UNO, we want to create an opportunity for every single student. We know Omaha depends on us to help provide a skilled and talented workforce that will keep our city growing. I am excited about this new scholarship that will bring more of Nebraska’s best and brightest to the Maverick family. We appreciate Governor Pillen’s partnership on this effort and look forward to connecting all students to the opportunities available to them at our metropolitan university.”

--University of Nebraska at Omaha Chancellor Joanne Li


“The vision that President Kabourek and Governor Pillen have laid out for keeping students in Nebraska is an investment in workforce development. We need as many talented, hard-working students as possible to get their degree, start their careers and put roots down here in central and western Nebraska. Every step we can take to get more students to attend the University of Nebraska and grow our workforce is a in. UNK is excited to support this effort.”

--University of Nebraska at Kearney Chancellor Doug Kristensen


“We need to use every possible tool to compete for Nebraska talent and build a highly skilled workforce that drives future economic growth and quality of life for our rural and urban communities alike. Across the workforce, and in healthcare in particular, it’s crucial that we provide opportunities for our highest-caliber students to stay here and put their talents to use for Nebraskans. This program represents just one of many such unique opportunities for Nebraskans to achieve their educational goals at one of the world class programs here at the University of Nebraska. I thank Governor Pillen and the Legislature for their collaboration in these efforts. I hope that our young people hear the message loud and clear that we want you to join the university family as there’s no better place to create their futures than right here in Nebraska.”

--University of Nebraska Medical Center Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D.


“Nebraska needs to win the competition for our own home-grown talent. I am delighted to see our university and state working hand-in-hand to stop the brain drain and meet the needs of Nebraska businesses. I have every confidence the philanthropic community will rally around the cause and join in this effort to compete for our kids and grow Team Nebraska.”

--Angie Muhleisen, Chair of the Board of Directors, University of Nebraska Foundation, and former President and CEO, Union Bank & Trust Co.


“As a lifelong Nebraskan and alum who dedicated my career to a company with deep Nebraska ties, I know our young people have strong affinity to their home state. But the reality is, when you’re a top scholar, you have your pick of schools. We’ve let too many of our own kids get away, and it’s time to step up our game. I am so excited about this new program and I believe the message that Nebraska is ready to compete will resonate with alumni and friends far and wide.”

--Jane Miller, Chair-elect of the Board of Directors, University of Nebraska Foundation, and retired President and Chief Operating Officer at Gallup


“For Nebraska agriculture to continue to be successful in today’s technology-based world, we’ll need a well-educated workforce with the skills necessary to innovate for the future. That means keeping more Nebraska talent here in the state and creating more opportunities for them to get a college degree. The Presidential Scholars Program is big win for the most important industry in our state, as it will encourage the best and brightest of Nebraska’s youth to use their talents to advance Nebraska agriculture to be the best in the nation.”

--Mark McHargue, President, Nebraska Farm Bureau


“In today’s workforce-short environment, every state is competing to attract, train and retain the next generation workforce that will shape our economic future. Nebraska must be continually taking the steps to compete and win in this regard. We accordingly are proud to support efforts at the University of Nebraska to continue to make our campuses a destination of choice and a difference maker in growing the ‘Good Life’ for generations to come.”

--Bryan Slone, President, Nebraska Chamber of Commerce


“Nebraskans are competitors. We can’t let other states outcompete us in recruiting our most elite academic performers. When we keep more top talent in Nebraska, that’s good for businesses and for the overall prosperity of our state. Congratulations Governor Pillen and President Kabourek on this exciting new effort. The Omaha Chamber will do everything we can to promote this opportunity and work with our members to provide internships and jobs to talented young Nebraskans.”

--Heath Mello, President, Greater Omaha Chamber


“The Chamber applauds the collaboration between the University and Governor Pillen to continually find new ways to compete for, and keep, Nebraska’s best and brightest college students. This new scholarship will allow some of Nebraska’s top academic college recruits the ability to remain in Nebraska for their collegiate experience, and we hope for their careers as well.”

--Jason Ball, President, Lincoln Chamber of Commerce


“Brain drain is one of the most significant issues facing our state – exactly the reason I introduced the Excellence in Education Scholarship Act to provide full cost of attendance scholarships to our highest-performing students. I applaud the University of Nebraska for launching this new program and look forward to working together on strategies to make Nebraska more competitive for our best and brightest.”

--State Sen. Eliot Bostar of District 29


“As a lifelong Nebraskan, University of Nebraska alum, and now a farmer and rancher, I’m so excited about how this new scholarship will benefit citizens across our great state. We as state leaders need to work together to stop the brain drain. Programs like this will help build a skilled workforce and create positive impact for rural and urban communities alike.”

--State Sen. Theresa Ibach of District 44


“This new scholarship completely aligns with our mission at the Aksarben Foundation to develop Nebraska’s future leaders by expanding opportunities for them to grow and learn right here in our state. I am thrilled to see this clear statement from President Kabourek, the Board of Regents and Governor Pillen that we want Nebraska’s 5-star students to develop their talents at home. We at the Aksarben Foundation look forward to partnering in this effort.”

--Sandra Reding, President, Aksarben Foundation


“On behalf of Ag Builders of Nebraska, I’m thrilled to hear this strong message from Governor Pillen and President Kabourek that the University of Nebraska is going to recommit itself to competing for every Nebraska student. A strong university is essential to the future of agriculture and our state’s economic prosperity. This is great news for the future farmers and ranchers, entrepreneurs, teachers and leaders in every Nebraska community who deserve to hear loud and clear that we want them to keep their talents here.”

--Chris Kalkowski, President, Ag Builders of Nebraska

Gov. Pillen, University Unveil New Scholarship for Top ACT Scoring Students