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(AP) - Nebraska's public high-school graduation rate increased slightly this year, but came up just shy of the 90 percent goal set by state officials. The Department of Education announced Friday that 89.7 percent of high school seniors graduated in 2014. Last year, 88.5 percent of seniors graduated. School officials say this year's rate is a record high, and it has steadily improved since 2011. The graduation target was developed by the Nebraska P-16 Initiative, a coalition of 27 business, education and government groups. State officials say 65 Nebraska schools graduated 100 percent of their seniors in four years, and 69 districts graduated all students within six years.


(AP) - University of Nebraska-Lincoln officials have passed a five-year plan that will increase room and board costs for students. The school's Board of Regents approved the plan Thursday that will increase room and board rates by about 3.5 percent each year for the next five years. Students returning next year won't see a rate increase. They are paying almost $10,000 this year for room and board. The Lincoln Journal Star ( ) reports new students can expect to pay $10,310 for a room and full meal plan next year. Officials say part of the revenue will help pay for two housing-related construction projects. Roughly 2 percent of the increase will pay for operation and maintenance costs at existing residence halls. About 1 percent each year will be used to pay off a construction bond to pay for a new dining hall.


(AP) - Nebraska State Fair officials are working on a plan to book a bigger musical act for a large, outdoor concert for next year. The Grand Island Independent ( ) reports the State Fair Board met for a retreat last week. Executive Director Joseph McDermott says fair officials have noticed some county fairs are bringing in well-known performers that are as big or bigger than the ones at the state fair. McDermott says fair officials are considering moving one concert to the south end of the Fonner Park track. He says the Heartland Events Center is not big enough to bring in bigger-name acts. The events center has a capacity of 5,300 people. An engineer and production manager have examined the park and say it could fit 10,000 people.


(AP) - Lincoln school officials have identified a high school student who fell to his death from a downtown city parking garage. The Lincoln Journal Star reports ( ) that 18-year-old Tony Kirkpatrick was a senior at Lincoln East High School. Police are still investigating whether Kirkpatrick jumped or fell of the side of the Que Place Garage just before 4 p.m. on Thursday. Police say the teen died at the scene, and his immediate family has been notified. A team of counselors was expected at the school all day Friday to help grieving students. On Monday, 28-year-old Monica Martinez, of Lincoln, also fell from the top of a parking garage in the downtown area. Investigators think she jumped on purpose.


(AP) - The director of Nebraska's Department of Natural Resources has resigned. Brian Dunnigan stepped down from the position on Thursday after more than 30 years with the department. He was appointed director by Gov. Dave Heineman in 2008. Heineman is leaving office in January. As director, Dunnigan oversaw a department that helps manage the state's waterways, dams and flood plains. The department is also heavily involved in discussions related to the Republican River, which runs through southern Nebraska as well as parts of Colorado and Kansas. Dunnigan isn't the only department head leaving. Department of Health and Human Services CEO Kerry Winterer announced earlier this month that he is leaving in December.


(AP) - Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska is rejecting the latest contract offer from one of the state's biggest medical networks because the insurer says the offer still costs too much. CHI Health officials offered a new agreement to Blue Cross earlier this week that would have cut rates by $10 million. But Blue Cross officials say CHI Health's rates have been roughly $60 million higher in the Omaha market. So Blue Cross rejected CHI Health's offer on Thursday. Numerous facilities and doctors affiliated with CHI Health have been out of the Blue Cross network since Sept. 1, so they are significantly more expensive for the insurer's customers. In several rural Nebraska communities, CHI Health operates the only hospital in town.


(AP) - An index of the rural economy in 10 Midwestern and Plains states says growth was neutral in October. The Rural Main Street Index hit 50.0 in November, up from 43.4 the previous month. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss says that even though the index rose sharply, low grain and energy prices continue to restrain the rural economy. Higher input costs and lower crop prices are squeezing farm profitability across the region. Farmland prices declined for the 12th straight month, and farm-equipment sales declined for the 16th consecutive month. Bankers also reported a nearly 30 percent increase in regulatory compliance costs since the passage of the Dodd-Frank bill in Congress. Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.


(AP) - A 66-year-old Columbus man is facing a criminal charge after police say he molested his granddaughter over a four-year period. The Columbus Telegram reports ( ) the man has been scheduled for arraignment on Tuesday in Platte County District Court on a felony charge of third-degree sexual assault of a child. The newspaper isn't identifying the man in order to protect the privacy of the victim. Columbus Police Sgt. Bret Strecker says the assaults began when the girl was 8 years old and continued for four years. He says the girl was living with the man and his wife and that the attacks would take place after the woman left for work. The girl, who is now a teenager, tells police the attacks ended when she asked her grandfather if the behavior was wrong.


(AP) - When the Nebraska Medical Center began treating patients with the deadly Ebola virus this fall, experts had to figure out how to safely conduct lab tests and handle samples. A paper outlining some of the lessons learned in the lab has been published, so other hospitals can learn from the experience here in Omaha. Pete Iwen, director of the Nebraska Public Health Laboratory, led the team of University of Nebraska Medical Center experts who wrote the paper. Iwen says that when the first Ebola patient arrived in September, some of the tests doctors wanted couldn't be performed safely with existing equipment, so the lab developed alternatives. Iwen says the American Journal of Clinical Pathology fast-tracked the approval of the paper, so other labs would have the advice available.


(AP) - A Wyoming teenager has been found guilty of second-degree murder in the strangling death of a Nebraska jailer. Jurors in Scotts Bluff County District Court returned the verdict Wednesday in the trial of 16-year-old Dylan Cardeilhac. They also considered a conviction of first-degree murder or manslaughter. The Scottsbluff Star-Herald reports ( ) jurors determined Cardeilhac intentionally killed 24-year-old Amanda Baker, but without premeditation or malice. Prosecutors say Cardeilhac strangled Baker in February at the Scotts Bluff County Detention Center as part of an escape attempt. Scotts Bluff County Attorney Doug Warner said Cardeilhac told others at the detention center he was willing to kill a guard. A defense attorney argued his client didn't intend to kill Baker. Cardeilhac will be sentenced on Jan. 9.