Gift to University of Nebraska to help develop new generation of teachers

December 18, 2018

An effort to develop a new generation of teachers in the state received a huge infusion of cash Monday from an Omaha-based foundation.

The gift to the University of Nebraska from the William and Ruth Scott Family Foundation will provide full-tuition four-year scholarships, plus $8,000 annually for other educational costs, for 104 students intent on becoming teachers.

The students will be part of a new Teachers Scholars Academy at all three undergraduate NU campuses. Broad areas of focus will include preparing future educators to serve diverse populations, working in rural schools and teaching English language learners.

“The Teachers Scholars Academy will keep the University of Nebraska at the forefront of meeting the needs of Nebraska’s children and our workforce,” NU President Hank Bounds said in a press release.

The university noted that enrollment in Nebraska’s pre-kindergarten-12 schools is growing rapidly, from 334,000 in 2009-10 to more than 361,000 today. But the number of college students in Nebraska majoring in education has fallen from 5,370 to 3,600 in the same period.

The University of Nebraska at Kearney, University of Nebraska-Lincoln and University of Nebraska at Omaha will immediately begin recruiting for the Teachers Scholars Academy, with the inaugural class expected to enroll next fall. UNK and UNL each will have 40 students in the first year of the program, and UNO will have 24.

Academy students will have access to learning communities and peer-networking opportunities, the university said. Other enrichment activities could include guest lectures, volunteer work and mentorships.

“We are fortunate to have a wonderful education system in Nebraska staffed by teachers who are great at what they do,” Ruth and Bill Scott said in a joint statement. “There just aren’t enough of them.

“We’re making this investment in the Teachers Scholars Academy because the future of our state demands we provide a quality education to our young people and families,” the Scotts said.

The university is not releasing the amount of the gift, which was made to the University of Nebraska Foundation. But figuring the cost of 2018-19 resident tuition for the number of students from each school, plus the $8,000 that each of the 104 students would get, brings the total to more than $1.5 million a year, or more than $6 million over the four years.

The university and the NU Foundation will have to raise funds for future groups of students in the academy program.

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