The state of Nebraska’s budget shortfall is creating the need for tough decisions across the University of Nebraska system, including at UNO, said Chancellor Jeffrey Gold.
During a campus forum Monday, Gold announced a list of examples of UNO cuts. Earlier, he did the same at a University of Nebraska Medical Center forum.
After deploying the Budget Response Teams and taking steps to address an approximately a $49 million budget shortfall in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 budgets, University of Nebraska President Hank Bounds and other university leaders learned late last fall that Gov. Ricketts was going to propose another 2 percent reduction this year and a 4 percent reduction in the second year of the biennial budget, resulting in approximately a $34 million gap, in addition to the previous $49 million gap.
This is an organization that is just on an incredible trajectory of growth and quality and success, and to see anything limit the enthusiasm of that really would be very problematic...
- Chancellor Jeffrey Gold
During the forum, Gold detailed several proposed cuts that Bounds will discuss with the state legislature during Wednesday’s appropriation hearing “as examples if the governor’s recommendations to the legislature to cut the budget becomes the law of the land. These are only proposals, only examples, of what might occur.”
“This is not everything," Gold said. "It represents approximately 50 percent of the cuts and all of the thinking about differential tuition.
Of course, all of the tuition proposals and many of the program changes would require review by the Board of Regents, if they were to become necessary.”
There are no proposals, however, to close any of the UNO colleges at this time, he said.
“That is not what we’re here for. It does not serve our community or our students.” he said.
The UNO examples Bounds is planning to share, which also represent about 50 percent of the possible UNO cuts include:
- Changes to the tuition model for certain programs in College of Business Administration (CBA) and College of Information Science and Technology (CIST).
- Reduction of Offutt Air Force Base on-location services.
- Elimination of the Career Center at CBA.
- Closure of one or more state-supported Nebraska Business Development Center rural sites.
- Elimination of state-aided funding to KVNO Radio.
- Elimination of faculty lines in College of Business Administration, College of Public Affairs and Community Service and College of Education.
President Bounds and the Chancellors have initiated a system-wide process to “create a clear and loud voice about the value of the university system in trying to stabilize the state budget and build a viable long term economic development strategy,” Gold said, pointing to the “education economy” – architecture, accounting, engineering, business and, of course, the health professions – which forms an important part of the state budget.
“The growth of the educational part of the economy depends upon having a great university system,” he said.
To pinpoint necessary strategies, Bounds convened university leaders and set the following guidelines:
- Meet all budget targets for FY 2017-18 and FY 2018-19.
- Not deplete more than a year of cash reserves.
- Not duplicate the elements of the BRT process.
- Create only recurring, base-budget reductions.
- In the case of tuition changes, they would have to sit on top of existing differential tuition and any overall tuition increase.
In examing UNO's situation, Gold also required that:
- Decisions should be driven by UNO’s core mission.
- Seek strategic opportunities.
- Prevent long-term disruption.
- Maintain and grow the reputation of excellence across all campuses.
- Be transparent and communicated clearly
- Balance proposals for growth and reduction.
- Connect strategic planning to the growth and reductions.
- To strengthen intercampus collaboration, particularly between UNO and UNMC.
“These decisions have to be humanistic,” Gold said. “We have to understand that 80-plus percent of the budget and this campus is people. All of these people have long-term commitments to UNO. All of these people have families and friends. We have to always think about the impact on individual human beings.”
However, decisions should also be data driven, he said.
“If we’re going to eliminate academic programs, we should find programs that have the smallest number of students and faculty that are impacted. If we’re going to eliminate positions, we should try to find positions that are not filled and that do not impact our core strategies for growth.”
Gold said he was hoping the cuts would prove unnecessary and that the legislature would be able to prevent all or some of these examples and more from becoming a reality.
“However, I am pragmatic enough to know that if we don’t plan, we’re not going to have the information that we need when and if we have to go forward with it,” he said.
“What concerns me is the fact that there’s a real question about the value of higher education and...that is being tested, not just here in Nebraska, but across the nation” he said. “This is an organization that is just on an incredible trajectory of growth and quality and success, and to see anything limit the enthusiasm of that really would be very disappointing, not for me or you, but for the future of the communities we serve, for the future of the state of Nebraska.
"If we as a community do not recognize and embrace the economic impact of high education in this state, we are missing a really important concept, one that is key to our future.”
Additional Statement from President Bounds
This is a difficult day for the University of Nebraska, our 53,000 students and the citizens we serve. The funding reductions recommended by the Governor have forced us to make painful decisions that will upend peoples' lives, make it more difficult for us to educate the future workforce, and limit our ability to grow Nebraska's economy at a time when a comprehensive plan for growth is what our state needs most.
We know state leaders are working hard to manage a difficult budget. We're going to ask the Appropriations Committee and members of the Legislature to make a clear choice about their priorities and what kind of future they want for our children and grandchildren.
My view is that the University of Nebraska, one of our state's most powerful drivers of individual opportunity and economic growth, has to be part of the conversation. There's never been a more important time to work together to build that future.