University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Ronnie D. Green speaks at a recent York Rotary Club meeting.

YORK — York Rotary Club hosted a special guest speaker at its most recent meeting -- University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Ronnie D. Green.

“It’s your university,” Green told the group. He explained the origins of the University, which is celebrating 150 years.

When UNL started 150 years ago, its founders most likely couldn’t even imagine what the achievements of their state’s educational institution would be. Even so, it was a forward-thinking movement that started UNL. “In the 1860s the Morrill Act set aside land to start public universities,” he said. The Morrill Land-Grant Act allowed for public universities in the United States. These properties were funded using the proceeds of federal land sales.

The Morrill Land-Grant Act -- United States Code 304 – reads, in part: “the leading object shall be, without excluding other scientific and classical studies and including military tactics, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts, in such manner as the legislatures of the States may respectively prescribe, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life.”

“It’s an instrument of public education,” Green said.

Before the Morrill Land-Grant Act went into effect, higher education consisted primarily of private colleges.

Answering a question from a Rotary member, Green acknowledged that both public and private tuition costs have been increasing. “My vision is the University is going to figure out how to lower that cost,” he said, adding that he believes institutions of higher learning will become more competitive, cost-wise. In the foreseeable future, Green said getting students through school sooner will also play a role in cost and, as a result, student loans. “We’d like to see more students finishing in four or five years,” he said.

Green said he wants the University of Nebraska system to touch all corners of Nebraska. “We’re engaging in every community in the state; Nebraska Extension is a big way.”

Another way the University extends its reach, Green said, is through its successful online learning program. “It’s now pretty routine that people study online,” he said. Still, Green reported that the University is constantly working to expand and fine-tune the popular educational option.

From a pen-to-paper legal document, to an emailed essay, the University has evolved; and with it, the state.

“The state has been so intertwined with the University,” Green said. “This has been a great year to celebrate 15 decades.”

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