28 SCHOOLS in NEBRASKA
Once named “Where the West Begins,” Nebraska had very little traffic from frontier settlers until the California Gold Rush. As a way station for fortune-seekers, Nebraska began attracting some attention, but it was still mainly a place to pass through until the Homestead Act of 1862. When the US government gave out land that had been taken by the removal of the Native Americans, settlers – especially German, Irish, and Czech immigrants who couldn’t find acceptance in the east – began to pour in, attracted by the wide, flat prairies that made cattle grazing and grain farming easy. African-Americans, freed from slavery, were also attracted to the clean slate the Nebraska Territory offered, and by the late 19th century Nebraska was caught up in the Great Migration.
Today, we still think of Nebraska as an agricultural state, and it is – agriculture is still the largest economic sector. But there’s a lot more to 21st century Nebraska than corn and cows. By some measures, Omaha, NE, has the highest proportion of Fortune 500 companies per capita of any American city, and is the home of Warren Buffett and his firm Berkshire Hathaway. Maybe it’s Nebraskans’ famous industriousness, entrepreneurship, and frugality; maybe it’s all a coincidence; but if Nebraska keeps growing smart, humble billionaires, it will owe a lot to a strong higher education system.
Nebraska’s colleges and universities include the University of Nebraska system, led by flagship UN-Lincoln, a land-grant university that redefined agriculture and set the stage for modern ecology, agribusiness, and food processing and preservation. But, of course, Nebraskans are a highly religious people (primarily Catholic and Lutheran), and most of the state’s colleges have their roots in religious seminaries and schools, like Creighton University, Nebraska Wesleyan, and Concordia University-Nebraska. A series of strong regional public universities and colleges, like Wayne State and UN-Kearney, ensure that Nebraska can reach out and produce the next generation of professionals, managers, and civic leaders across the state.