LINCOLN — The University of Nebraska is seeking $91 million from the state cash reserve fund to launch on four major building projects at campuses in Omaha, Lincoln and Kearney.
The proposals include:
• $50 million in state dollars to help build a $370 million cancer research center at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, with the remainder coming from private donations and patient revenues.
• $17 million for a new Nursing College at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus. This proposal, which NU has sought since 2008, is farthest along in the planning stages and likely would open to students in the fall of 2014, if approved.
• $19 million for a building addition at the University of Nebraska at Kearney to provide nurses' training and training for allied health professionals such as physician's assistants and physical therapists.
• $5 million to plan and design a new veterinary diagnostic center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The existing laboratory is outdated and is in danger of losing its accreditation.
The proposals will compete with Gov. Dave Heineman's proposal for tax cuts, said State Sen. Tony Fulton of Lincoln, who agreed to introduce legislation authorizing the Lincoln College of Nursing facility.
“Anything with a dollar sign on it, mathematically is in competition with the tax cut proposals,” Fulton said.
Although he would not say the nursing college is more important than cutting taxes, Fulton did say he believed it is a government responsibility to provide adequate nurse-training facilities in light of a looming nursing shortage and the need to create more jobs in rural Nebraska.
Though Gov. Dave Heineman has been briefed on the proposals, they were not included in his state budget. NU President J.B. Milliken said he did not know if Heineman would support the package.
However, he said the university “would be remiss” if it did not propose strategies to address state needs like job creation and health care services.
“We have an obligation to make the case,” he said.
Even though more nurses are needed in the state estimates are that there will be 3,800 fewer nurses than needed in 2010 NU is forced to turn away nursing applicants each year because of lack of space and nursing instructors, Milliken said. Last year, 400 nursing applicants were turned down from the NU programs, which are run by the NU Med Center at five sites across the state. The Lincoln nursing program, which is currently is housed in a former department store building downtown, could accept only half of those that applied.
The Cancer Center project is part of a long-time NU goal to obtain a comprehensive cancer center designation from the National Cancer Institute. Currently there are only 40 such facilities in the country.
The Cancer Center would allow Med Center cancer patients to obtain treatment at a single location, instead of the current situation of shuttling between three buildings and it would allow the Med Center to recruit another 50 cancer researchers, said Kenneth Cowan, director of the Eppley Cancer Center.
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