Senators, Gov. Ricketts sign legislation that approves funding
LINCOLN – Gov. Pete Ricketts signed legislation Wednesday that supports construction of a new Rural Health Education Building at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
Approved last week by state senators, LB1014 allocates $60 million in federal American Rescue Plan funds to the project, which will address the critical need for additional health care professionals in rural Nebraska by allowing more students to study and train in Kearney.
“The Rural Health Education Building will serve a crucial role in filling shortages in all medical professions across Nebraska, especially our rural communities,” said UNK Chancellor Doug Kristensen. “This funding will help UNMC and UNK build a transformational facility and roll out comprehensive education covering most disciplines offered by UNMC.”
A collaboration between UNK and the University of Nebraska Medical Center, the Rural Health Education Building will grow the state’s talent pipeline by expanding existing UNMC programs offered in Kearney. It will also bring new options to the UNK campus, including medicine, medical nutrition, genetic counseling and respiratory care – all high-need areas in rural Nebraska.
A Master of Health Administration will be added to complement UNK’s undergraduate program, and discussion is underway for the UNMC College of Pharmacy to offer a joint degree program with UNK.
“Governor Ricketts’ support of the UNK-UNMC Rural Health Education Building will pay dividends for Nebraskans well into the future,” University of Nebraska System President Ted Carter said. “The University of Nebraska thanks the governor and all those who have championed this crucial investment in the workforce, vitality and growth of our rural communities.”
The $60 million included in LB1014 will go toward construction and start-up costs, with an additional $25 million expected to come from private funds. The new building could be completed as early as 2025.
State senators also approved companion bill LB792 Wednesday that will provide $15 million in annual operational and programmatic funding when fully implemented. In addition to addressing equipment and staffing needs at the state-of-the-art facility, this funding would allow UNK and UNMC to grow their current student recruitment programs and develop new initiatives.
“We are excited and passionate about training and educating future health care professionals in our state,” Kristensen said. “UNK will immediately begin recruiting students and developing pipeline programs that provide additional opportunities in rural health education.”
The Rural Health Education Building strengthens an already successful partnership between UNK and UNMC. The institutions opened a $19 million Health Science Education Complex on UNK’s west campus in 2015, and that facility quickly filled. More than 300 students are currently pursuing degrees there in over a dozen professional programs. About 85% of the students who graduate from this building start their careers in Nebraska.
The Rural Health Education Building will be located directly north of the Health Science Education Complex, creating a hub for health education in rural Nebraska that serves current and future providers and supports collaborative research projects.