UNK Before the Merger
In 1903, the Nebraska State Legislature appropriated money for a new normal school, to meet the need for teacher training more convenient to central and western Nebraska. Following a very competitive bid process, Kearney was chosen as the location. See the full lecture "From 111 Ballots to Today" on YouTube to learn about the 111 ballots necessary to select Kearney as a location, and for reactions of the losing towns. Classes at the Nebraska State Normal School at Kearney began in 1905, despite an unfinished building. Much higher enrollment than predicted stressed Kearney’s very limited resources, but demonstrated its value. Initially, teaching certification and other two year programs were the focus; the first Bachelor of Education degrees weren't awarded until 1918. Kearney underwent the first of several name changes in 1921, when it became the Nebraska State Teachers College. A transition to a true college atmosphere followed, with the number of students taking high school level classes falling dramatically. By 1963, the Teachers College at Kearney had added a master's degree and non-education-focused degrees. As a recognition of this transition, the name was changed to Kearney State College (KSC).
By the 1980’s, KSC's name no longer matched what it was doing. More master's degree programs were being offered and the scope of academic programs had expanded. These additions, plus a much higher enrollment, differentiated KSC from its other state college counterparts. While some sort of change needed to happen, it wasn’t immediately obvious what should be done. Various schemes, from simply trading College for University in the name to forming a new university system with the other state colleges, were debated.