The University of Nebraska's proposed 2010-2011 budget is highlighted by recommendations to curtail raises in faculty/staff salaries, a 6 percent tuition increase, and additional financial aid support.
In a June 4 announcement, NU president James B. Milliken said the operating budget request reflects prudence during difficult economic times and preparation for the challenging biennium ahead.
"Nebraska's fiscal picture, while still brighter than that of many of our neighbors, remains troubling," Milliken said. "The next biennium could be one of the toughest Nebraska has faced. With that in mind, the operating budget I have proposed for the University of Nebraska is one that represents shared sacrifice with a focus on our core values and priorities."
Under the proposed budget - to be considered June 11 by the NU Board of Regents - no funding will be provided for faculty and staff salary increases. Milliken said the move would help preserve jobs and manage reductions from a special legislative session held in November. Collective bargaining agreements at UNO and UNK will be funded by those campuses.
Milliken said that while holding the line on salaries will help preserve jobs and resources during difficult times, it must be a temporary measure.
"This practice is not sustainable for the long term if the University of Nebraska is to be competitive," he said. "Faculty and staff at the university are our greatest asset. And, the university must be able to recruit and retain top talent in order to best serve students, their families and the state."
Milliken said the majority of NU's peer institutions are also curtailing salary increases. Currently, UNL lags 4.6 percent behind peer averages for faculty salaries.
"We will not gain a lot of ground on the (regents') goal to reach the midpoint of peer salaries. But, we will not lose much ground because of what is happening across the country," Milliken said.
Other key elements of the proposed budget include:
- A 6 percent increase in tuition universitywide. The proposed increase means resident undergraduates carrying 15 credit hours per semester at UNL will pay $169 more per semester next year (an increase from $2,805 to $2,974 for 15 credit hours). A 6 percent tuition increase is also proposed for the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture in Curtis; resident students would pay $90 more per semester.
- A 6 percent increase in need-based financial aid. This includes the Collegebound Nebraska program, which guarantees that, generally, a student whose family income is $50,000 or less will pay no tuition at the university.
- An additional one-time investment of $2 million to allow campus financial aid offices to meet additional needs of students. This follows last year's $1.2 million Student Assistance Fund, which was established to help students who encountered unexpected financial hardships.
- Other one-time investments in strategic priorities that position the university for the next biennium and beyond, such as energy efficiencies that will save money over the long term, student recruitment initiatives to increase revenues, and essential deferred maintenance projects.
- $2.7 million to cover annual operating costs of the Student Information System, a required new system that will manage nearly every aspect of students' engagement with the university, from course registration to billing to grades.
The budget includes a shortfall of $10.1 million, which comes on top of $8.5 million in reductions the university must identify in the current fiscal year. Already this year, the equivalent of 103 full-time positions have been eliminated, and support for a number of initiatives and for travel, equipment and building services has been reduced.
Milliken pointed out that UNL has already announced proposed cuts for the 2010-2011 budget year. The other three NU campuses will announce cuts in the near future.
The university's strategic framework will serve as a guide as the university implements budget reductions, Milliken said. He said maintaining affordable access for Nebraska families would remain the university's highest priority.
"Tuition increases are never welcome, because we know that even a modest increase can have a large impact on students and their families," he said. "This is why we will make the largest investment in financial aid in the University of Nebraska's history this year. With this support, students will be able to continue to pursue an excellent education that will make them more competitive in today's job market, increase their earning potential and improve the quality of life for themselves, their families and their communities."
Nearly 6,000 students qualified for Collegebound Nebraska this year, an increase from about 5,100 in 2008-2009, and early estimates indicate this figure will increase again in the coming year. In addition, more than 900 students received support from the Susan T. Buffett Foundation, which provides scholarships to students at Nebraska public universities and state and community colleges. Student support is one of the top priorities of the university's ongoing capital campaign, and the university will continue to invest in financial aid so students with the greatest need are held harmless by tuition increases, Milliken said.
Milliken also pointed out that NU campuses continue to cost significantly less than their peers. For 2009-2010, UNL's tuition was 25 percent below the peer average. Tuition increases have been announced at virtually all the peer campuses, but even if they all freeze tuition, NU campuses would still be below their peer averages.
Also on June 11, the regents will be asked to approve the university's 2011-2013 biennial budget request, which must be submitted to the governor by Sept. 15. The university's proposed request includes modest annual increases in two priorities - need-based financial aid and Programs of Excellence, top academic initiatives in which the university is a leader.
With regent approval, the university will also submit one capital project for funding consideration: a new College of Nursing facility in Lincoln. The facility is planned for East Campus and would replace the current outdated facility located downtown. Planning funds for the facility have already been provided by the Unicameral.
A new facility would allow the college to admit more qualified students and would provide additional opportunities for state-of-the-art technologies. In addition, proximity to the College of Dentistry would aid faculty recruitment, create new academic synergies and allow for resource-sharing.
"There is a critical need for more nurses both in Nebraska and across the nation. By 2020, Nebraska's nursing shortage alone is expected to grow from 9 percent to 30 percent," Milliken said. "A new College of Nursing facility will allow the University of Nebraska to continue to meet the growing health demands of the state."
For more information on the June 11 regents' meeting, go to http://www.nebraska.edu/board.html and click on "Agendas and Minutes."
- By Melissa Lee, NU Central Administration
More details at: http://go.unl.edu/0hx