Chancellor Kristensen: UNK maintains quality, access and experiences – what matters most

Chancellor Doug Kristensen

“As always, academic quality is in the forefront of our collective thinking as we innovate.”
– Chancellor Doug Kristensen

We are among the institutions planning and responding to the coronavirus pandemic and we understand the responsibility – and privilege – we have to continue to educate and support students and their families who are investing in higher learning. Now, more than ever, the University of Nebraska at Kearney is providing innovative ways to meet the needs of students across the world and advance our mission of research and creative activity, service, and teaching.

We have focused on health and safety first while balancing the need for students and faculty to work individually and collectively to explore and learn, and keeping opportunities for interactions among students and their peers in innovative and technology-rich ways. As always, academic quality is in the forefront of our collective thinking as we innovate.

UNK’s student-focused approach causes us to consider, and proactively plan for, ways to provide the experience that students and their families have dreamed of and invested in – and expect – from a university. Flexibility and innovation are key, and our strength.

This past week we announced adjustments to our approach to student housing, and enhanced opportunities for first-year students to access UNK. Both are designed to let students choose, come August 2020, what is best for them. And we have maintained a focus on affordable quality by making decisions to discount tuition and housing costs, now and in the coming academic years.

First-year students who typically have not had a choice of a private room now have that available to them. Some students want a roommate to share their college residential experience. Some don’t, and because we have the space available and physical distancing and hygiene is now so important, we’re letting students decide what’s best for them. We also discounted the charge for a private room because we did not want the cost of that decision to become a barrier.

Some students, for several reasons, may now be choosing to start their college career online. Protecting their health or that of their family, or work and home responsibilities, and maximum flexibility in engaging with coursework and assignment – all of these reasons may make a fully online semester or year the best choice for new students.

Our O.N.E. (Online Networking Experience) Loper program is a groundbreaking approach to the student’s first college semester. Building on our proven success in online teaching and learning through the UNK eCampus brand, the faculty have quickly adapted a premier-quality online first-semester curriculum and student support system that meets students’ needs.

The O.N.E. Loper program and expanded housing flexibility will increase students’ choices and we further anticipate that some students who had planned to leave the state to go far away to college may instead choose to stay home, and close to what matters most.

Affordability remains a focus for UNK now more than ever. President Ted Carter’s announcement of expanded tuition assistance to middle and low-income families through the Nebraska Promise immediately increased student applications.

We announced a decision to forego tuition increases for academic years 2021-23, and just this week shared a decrease in the tuition rate for online undergraduate courses. And, moving deadlines for applications to June 1 has increased access to scholarships and aid as students and their families continue to evaluate their changing financial needs. In our conversations with students, we hear the hope and eagerness that they have in UNK to connect them to what matters most in this uncertain time.

As we begin our New Student Enrollment next week – being offered for the first time entirely remotely – we will continue to plan for fall, adjusting timelines and traditions that will evolve as families share with us their needs for a safe, quality, affordable and enriching University of Nebraska at Kearney experience.

Doug Kristensen
Chancellor, University of Nebraska at Kearney