University of Nebraska President Ted Carter unveiled a five-year strategy on Friday that emphasizes a “bias for action” and places students at the forefront of the strategy.
The strategy, which began in February among a 28-member team, prioritizes access, affordability and attainment; workforce development; culture, diversity and inclusion; partnerships and efficiency; and effectiveness, according to the strategy.
“We set about creating a five-year plan for growth and success in our university plan to define who we are, what we are going to become and how we are going to get there,” Carter said.
Among current challenges, Carter said the question becomes how institutions will respond and that the ones who succeed will be the ones who are flexible and adaptable.
NU, he said, will be among the successful higher education institutions.
Board of Regents vice chair Paul Kenney questioned how the plan would have changed if it was written a year prior, before the coronavirus, to which Carter said the virus did not write the strategy, NU did.
“COVID-19 did nothing more than envalue the principles that are in this document,” Carter said.
The strategy will serve as a living, breathing, changing and flexible plan for NU, which will emphasize NU’s bias for action, according to Carter.
District 7 regent Bob Phares said Carter expressed interest during the search for the eighth NU president in launching a document like the five-year strategy, which Carter followed through on.
“Strategic plans, sometimes, are written just for the purpose of being able to say, ‘we have it,’ and it never gets off the shelf after it’s written,” Phares said. “The thing that makes this different is that it is focused on action, moving forward, … and I think that’s the goal in [the strategy] and that’s one of the most exciting parts.”
In addition to the plan, the regents, at their first in person meeting since adapting to be online in April, approved NU’s biennial operating budget request to the Nebraska Legislature and Gov. Pete Ricketts, amendments to NU’s Title IX policies regarding sexual misconduct, a systemwide Student Code of Conduct and a new tuition scholarship based on GPA for nonresident students.
District 2 regent Howard Hawks and District 8 regent Barbara Weitz attended the meeting via videoconference from the University of Nebraska Omaha Baxter Arena.
NU will ask for a 2% annual increase in state appropriations, the meeting agenda states, which is part of a three-year budget plan NU approved in June that includes $43 million in permanent spending cuts.
The increased appropriations will address current challenges brought on by the coronavirus, place NU in a position of strength for future growth and success and offset the loss of expected tuition revenue from nonresident and international students. Per a two-year tuition freeze beginning fall 2021, tuition will not increase through the 2022-23 academic year.
Carter said NU may have passed the financial cost to students in the past, but that is not the route NU took as a response to the coronavirus.
The increased aid will also support campus-specific reductions, such as an expected 5.5% reduction to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s budget. For the 2020-21 academic year, 0.2% of the cuts will occur, and the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture is not included in the cuts.
The regents also approved NU’s biennial capital budget request, which will address deferred maintenance issues and ensure campus facilities are modern, according to the agenda. As a result, NU now has a predictable, sustainable $2 billion capital renewal and repair plan that will last until 2050. The plan will also allow NU leaders to establish five-year renewal and repair plans that could regularly be monitored and reported to the regents.
NU requested $2 million for fiscal year 2021-22 and $4 million in fiscal year 2022-23, which will be matched by NU for each year. The requests would continue to be increased annually by $2 million for each of the following two fiscal years.
The long-term plan also proposes an extension of NU’s existing $11 million annual capital appropriations, which is also matched by NU annually, through 2050. The regents will also establish a depreciation fund by assessing a 1% annual depreciation assessment fee to any new project.
The fee would begin in fiscal year 2024-25 and be split equally between the state and NU.
As a result, the agenda states NU now has a predictable and sustainable $2 billion, thirty-year capital renewal and repair plan, which would allow NU leaders to establish five-year renewal and repair plans that could regularly be monitored and reported.
NCTA is also included in the plan.
The plan is a direct goal listed in Carter’s strategy as well.
Due to new amendments to Title IX the U.S. Department of Education released on May 6 regarding sexual misconduct in education, the regents approved two policy changes to ensure compliance.
The board amended its Sexual Misconduct Policy for Employees and Students to match the new regulations, which require that allegations of dating violence or stalking be investigated and that college students accused of sexual assault and harassment be given a right to a live hearing and ability to cross-examine their accusers.
Per the regulations, universities are also required to take responsibility for investigating incidents in university-recognized fraternity or sorority houses and off-campus apartments if part of a university program.
The board also approved appealing its Procedures for Student Sexual Misconduct Complaints policy, which no longer complies with the regulations. The repealed procedures, which address student and employee sexual misconduct complaints, will be modified via executive memoranda to ensure compliance, according to the agenda.
District 5 regent Rob Schafer said the expectation on NU campuses is that young women are to be taken care of and their safety prioritized, and he urged the board to look at where they could remain relevant and look to constantly be better with regard to Title IX.
The regents also established a University of Nebraska Student Code of Conduct that unifies code of conducts at UNL, UNO and the University of Nebraska at Kearney. The University of Nebraska Medical Center has a code of conduct for all faculty, staff and students, but not a student-specific code, according to the agenda.
The agenda states that faculty and student groups on each campus have approved the changes, which include:
Designing the code to be more student and reader-friendly
Defining and providing examples for policy violations
Making expulsions permanent and prohibiting attendance to NU functions unless prior permission from the appropriate campus vice chancellor for Student Affairs is granted
Expanding “exceptions for seeking emergency help” to include more than just a student calling for assistance and now includes drug usage under the policy
Denoting suspensions on transcripts through the duration of the suspension
Association of Students of the University of Nebraska President Roni Miller said the changes began in ASUN at each NU campus three years ago. Miller said she was proud to see a code that she said can best serve students.
The regents also amended their tuition scholarship policy to allow GPA to be a qualifying factor for nonresident, undergraduate freshmen if they maintain a cumulative 3.0 GPA or higher in high school.
The change provides a third option for these students in addition to ranking in the upper 25% of their high school class or having scored a 23 or higher on the ACT, or the SAT equivalent.
Many high schools are eliminating class rank nationwide, and with drops in ACT and SAT test-taking as a result of the coronavirus, the agenda states, the policy change reflects those national trends.
The regents are scheduled to meet in person at Varner Hall on Thursday, Oct. 8 for their next meeting.