The University of Nebraska announced the creation of a systemwide Teachers Scholars Academy on Monday that will provide 104 future teachers full-tuition scholarships and $8,000 stipends for other costs.
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln, along with the University of Nebraska at Kearney and the University of Nebraska at Omaha, will benefit from the gift from the William and Ruth Scott Family Foundation.
"The Teachers Scholars Academy is about Nebraska's future," NU President Hank Bounds said in a statement. "Research and common sense tells us that the quality of care and education we receive starting at birth has enormous implications for our success and well-being later in life.
"It's vital that we have enough highly qualified educators in Nebraska to carry out this important work," Bounds added.
According to the Nebraska Department of Education, the number of K-12 students in the state has risen from 334,000 in 2009-10 to more than 361,000 in 2017-18.
But at the same time, the number of future educators enrolled in Nebraska's public and private colleges and universities had fallen from 6,231 a decade ago to 3,616 in 2015-16.
Bounds said the Scott Foundation gift will help create a pilot program to recruit, retain and develop more than 100 teachers to fill the gap.
Academy students — 40 each at UNL and UNK and 24 at UNO — will gain networking opportunities and learning communities to further their professional development.
"The Teachers Scholars Academy will keep the University of Nebraska at the forefront of meeting the needs of Nebraska's children and our workforce," he said.
Omaha philanthropists Ruth and William Scott called Nebraska's education system "wonderful" and its teachers "great at what they do."
"There just aren't enough of them," they said in a joint statement. "We're making this investment into the Teachers Scholars Academy because the future of our state demands we provide a quality education to our young people and families."
Once the academy is up and running, the University of Nebraska Foundation plans to raise money for future cohorts, the university said in a release.