New university may be coming to Lincoln

2010-05-13T01:00:00Z New university may be coming to LincolnBy KEVIN ABOUREZK / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com

A new university may open in Lincoln by the end of the year.

Then again, it may not.

The Nebraska Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education is set to vote Thursday on a proposal from Herzing University -- a for-profit school based in Milwaukee with 10 campuses in eight states. Herzing has submitted a proposal to establish campuses in Lincoln and Omaha.

This week, the University of Nebraska asked the commission to postpone its decision until NU and the commission have had a chance to address potential problems with it, said postsecondary commission Director Marshall Hill.

He said he'll recommend the commission postpone the vote because it failed to give adequate notice to institutions that may be affected. The commission notified the public of an April 19 hearing on the Herzing proposal through notices in the Lincoln Journal Star and the Omaha World-Herald, Hill said, but it did not directly notify NU and other institutions that could be affected.

"We did not let everybody know that we should have let know," he said. "It's a serious mistake on our part."

If the commission does not vote on the proposal Thursday, it might not do so until its next regular meeting on Aug. 5. However, Hill said he'd consider holding a special meeting to consider it.

Commission staff has recommended approval of the proposal, with conditions that include securing a site and acquiring accreditation for such degree programs as nursing and physical therapist assistant.

The commission is required to approve new academic programs in Nebraska.

Herzing University President Renee Herzing declined to comment on the possibility the vote could be postponed until August.

She said she is hopeful the commission eventually will approve the application.

"We're very hopeful," she said. "This is the last stage in a several-step process."

She described Herzing as a family-owned university focused on five academic areas: technology, business, health care, graphic design and public safety. It is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

If the application is approved, the school would offer nine associate's degrees, six bachelor of science degrees and five diploma programs.

Bachelor's programs would be in business administration, computer science, criminal justice, graphic design, health care management and nursing, according to the proposal.

Associate's degrees would include business administration, computer science, criminal justice, graphic design and physical therapist assistant.

Tuition would be $700 per credit hour for the nursing and physical therapist assistant programs and $460 per credit hour for all other programs ($445 for hours after the first 11).

That means a student graduating with a bachelor's degree in business would pay roughly $56,560 at Herzing, compared with $29,130 at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, $90,050 at Nebraska Wesleyan University and $56,224 at Kaplan. A Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree would cost $84,000 at Herzing, compared with $46,390 at BryanLGH College of Health Sciences.

While she wouldn't draw comparisons to specific colleges already in Lincoln, Herzing said her family's school provides greater individual attention to students than many other institutions and works to make its class schedule convenient for older students.

"Our focus is on making people job-ready," she said.

Herzing University hasn't purchased a site for its Lincoln campus, although it has one in mind, she said. She wouldn't say where, but said accessibility was the most important factor in choosing one.

The earliest Herzing might begin offering classes would be this fall, she said. She didn't comment on what effect a postponed decision would have on that timeline.

The university could have 300 to 600 students, according to testimony presented April 19 to the postsecondary commission by Bill Getter, vice president of academic affairs at Herzing.

The university has about an 80 percent placement rate for graduating students not planning to continue their educations or enter the military, Renee Herzing said. She said the university has a high referral rate among its students.

"We try to focus on the students," she said. "I think often people say they feel like family."

Reach Kevin Abourezk at 402-473-7225 or kabourezk@journalstar.com.

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