Hennings’ generosity will help reduce textbook costs for UNL students

Tom and Candy Henning
Tom and Candy Henning

University of Nebraska–Lincoln alumni Tom and Candy Henning have pledged a gift through the University of Nebraska Foundation to acquire more unlimited licenses for the University Libraries, to expand an initiative to provide free course materials to students.

Not having access to course materials correlates with lower performance and college completion rates, which are key metrics for student success. However, many students cannot afford course materials.

To address the challenge, the University Libraries launched a program two years ago, the Libraries Course Materials program, to expand UNL students’ free access to course materials and books, thus reducing students’ financial burden.

“One way the Libraries keeps costs down for students and ensures that they have access to quality learning materials is purchasing e-books with unlimited user licenses,” said Liz Lorang, dean of University Libraries. “These licenses mean that all students in a course — and all users of the UNL community, in fact — can use the book simultaneously.”

More than 6,000 items have been provided by the Libraries to more than 23,000 students enrolled in the 600-plus classes using Libraries Course Materials lists. From spring semester 2022 through January 2024, the Libraries Course Materials program provided an estimated savings of $1.7 million to students.

While students save significant amounts of money, new expenses shift to University Libraries because an unlimited license e-book is more expensive than a traditional e-book.

Toward that end, the Libraries made affordable course materials a priority as part of Only in Nebraska: A Campaign for Our University’s Future, a historic effort to engage at least 150,000 benefactors to give $3 billion to support University of Nebraska students, faculty, academic and clinical programs and research to address the needs of the state. Student access and success is the top campaign priority.

The Hennings (both UNL, ‘75) are trustees of the University of Nebraska Foundation and active volunteers in the university’s campaign as the co-chairs of the Libraries Campaign Committee. The Lincoln couple learned about the high cost of course materials for students, including how less affluent students sometimes have to choose between buying groceries and buying books or other resources for their classes.

Tom Henning said an investment in the University Libraries resonated with the couple because of how it could positively impact students.

“Whether you came from an affluent background or not, you wouldn’t be disadvantaged relative to having the textbooks you need access to in order to do your studies,” Tom Henning said.

The Hennings’ undisclosed gift commitment will have a multiplier effect as the University Libraries retains the title in perpetuity for use in future courses, so the savings will not just benefit current students, but future students as well.

The Hennings have a long history of supporting the university since their first gift to the University Libraries in 1977, kicking off four decades of support.

“The Hennings have been great friends and supporters of the Libraries for decades, and we are grateful for their support of this program and hope it will inspire others,” Lorang said. “Data show that their investment in Libraries Course Materials is yielding a great financial and educational return, and Nebraska students are benefiting from the Libraries’ purchase of materials with unlimited licenses.”

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