The University of Nebraska budget hearing provided an opportunity for University representatives and advocates to explain how the state's investment in higher education strengthens the entire state and to urge lawmakers to reject significant proposed cuts to its funding.
Speakers cited how campuses and institutes train tomorrow's skilled workforce, make research breakthroughs, and serve communities from the Panhandle to the Missouri -- work that all adds up to an annual $3.9 billion economic impact, a 6-to-1 return on investment.
"If we want Nebraska to compete, if we want this to be a place where our children and grandchildren will live and work and raise a family, if we want to build a workforce that will sustain us into the future, then we have to invest in one of the primary economic drivers our state has. And that's the University of Nebraska," said University of Nebraska President Hank Bounds.
Speaking on behalf of all 53,000 students in the University of Nebraska system, UNO Student Body President Carlo Eby stressed the importance of protecting the affordability and quality of Nebraska's public universities, a priority he said is shared by Mavericks, Huskers, Lopers, and students at UNMC alike.
"With each cut, they realize they lose another educational opportunity, recognize a likely tuition increase, or one less way that the University is able to serve our growing and diverse student body," Eby said.
Speakers also emphasized the importance of the cutting-edge research being conducted across the institutes and campuses, in areas such as medicine, agriculture, and national defense. Among the speakers was Ashli Brehm, who praised the care and expertise of the medical team who helped her survive Stage 2 breast cancer, a disease she was diagnosed with at just 33 years-old.
With each cut, they realize they lose another educational opportunity, recognize a likely tuition increase, or one less way that the University is able to serve our growing and diverse student body.
- Carlo Eby, UNO Student Body President
"I speak from experience -- the very best investment you can make in state dollars is in academic medical cancer research. This money is more than just a line in a budget. Ask my parents. Ask my husband. Ask my three little boys."
Other speakers included Chair of the Board of Regents Bob Schafer; representatives from the Lincoln and Omaha Chambers of Commerce; Ag Builders of Nebraska President Bart Ruth; and Tonn Ostergard, Crete Carrier president and CEO.
Chancellor Jeffrey Gold expressed his gratitude to all those who testified so eloquently.
"They provided real world examples of the impact and created a vision for the future role of the university in building a better Nebraska," Gold said. "The focus of the committee members and their thoughtful comments and questions helped to emphasize this all important future."
From here, the Appropriations Committee will begin deliberating in order to deliver a recommendation to the Legislature.
The hearing followed a campus forum on Monday in which Gold outlined examples of possible budget responses, and a Feb. 14 email to students, affirming UNO's commitment to providing a quality, affordable education to every student on campus - today and in the future.
Specific questions or concerns about the proposed cuts or budget response plan can be sent to this email address.
Budget information will continue to be highlighted in the Maverick Daily as it comes available.
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