The University of Nebraska Board of Regents approved NU’s 2021-22 operating budget and approved student fee increases at its meeting Friday.
The budget, outlined in the meeting agenda, is planned to position the NU system in a position of strength post pandemic and will allow NU to enter year two of a three-year pandemic response following $43 million in permanent spending cuts. As a result, NU can follow through with a commitment to a two-year tuition freeze, locking rates across campuses at the 2020-21 rates through the next two academic years.
Non-unionized employees — whose salaries were frozen in immediate response to the pandemic — will receive a 1.5% increase in the merit pool for this upcoming year and will receive a 3% increase the following year, per the budget; a total 4.5% increase.
With larger than expected enrollment gains, NU will invest $6 million to improve faculty salaries at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and University of Nebraska Medical Center, where salaries lag behind peer institutions. This is a key component of NU President Ted Carter’s University of Nebraska five-year strategy released last August.
Although not part of the operating budget, Fund B University Program and Facilities Fee allocations for each campus were approved. These pay for facilities like the Nebraska Union and Campus Recreation.
UNL total UPFF assessments will increase by $14 for the 2021-22 academic year, which is largely due to the salary increases. This increase includes Fund A UPFF allocations as well, which pay for services like the Association of Students of the University of Nebraska and University Program Council and were approved by Chancellor Ronnie Green.
Students taking one to six credit hours will pay $519 each semester while students taking more than seven credits will pay $631, an increase of about 2.77% and 2.27%, respectively.
“We have profound faculty and staff that definitely do deserve a salary increase, so I really support this,” UNL Student Regent Batool Ibrahim said. “It will really increase the student experience on campus but also create a positive campus climate, making sure we’re treating our faculty and staff with a certain regard.”
Only the University of Nebraska Omaha, not UNMC or the University of Nebraska at Kearney, is slightly increasing Fund B allocations as a result of the salary increases as well. UNO’s Fund B allocations are much lower — $292.85 for students taking one to six credits, $485.60 for students taking seven or more — and will increase about 0.42% and 0.46%, respectively.
The regents approved the creation of a Bachelor of Fine Arts in acting in the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film in the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts. This will replace the Bachelor of Arts in theatre for students in the performance option track. This will be the first accredited BFA in acting program in Nebraska and the second in the Big Ten Conference joining Penn State University, according to the agenda.
Junior and senior students enrolled in the soon-to-be-replaced program will continue through graduation, while freshman and sophomore students currently enrolled can transition over.
The Bachelor of Arts in hospitality, restaurant and tourism management in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources will be eliminated. Enrolled students can continue through graduation with no changes, and the duplicative program in the College of Education and Human Sciences will continue.
The board amended NU’s four-year graduation guarantee, to more specifically outline student and campus obligations for the guarantee, and approved a new university-wide Consensual Relationships Policy.
The new policy prohibits relationships between faculty and all undergraduate students and prohibits supervisors from working with anyone they have had a romantic relationship with. In addition, faculty and staff members are forbidden from entering into a romantic relationship with graduate or professional students in their academic unit.
There is some flexibility for a conflict management plan to eliminate supervisory or evaluate authority if relationships are properly reported, according to the agenda.
Gov. Pete Ricketts, who Carter said is the first sitting governor to address the board at an official meeting, addressed the board on Nebraska’s continued partnership with NU, and the regents recognized retiring Executive Vice President and Provost Susan Fritz.
District 8 Regent Barbara Weitz invited District 4 Regent Elizabeth O’Connor, Ibrahim and UNO Student Regent Maeve Hemmer to join her in honoring Fritz. Weitz said Fritz is “an incredible treasure” and the women regents “stand on [Fritz’s] shoulders and have moved to where we are and hopefully beyond” because of her.
Fritz served NU for 32 years and was the first woman to hold the NU president position in an interim capacity, and she said it has been humbling to serve in her capacity and to serve NU, and she has great optimism for the university system’s future.
“I have a vested interest in the upward trajectory that we’re on,” she said, referencing her seven grandchildren she says will come to NU. “Regents, I thank you for your partnership and all that you do every day to help us in the pursuit of excellence.”
The next Board of Regents meeting is scheduled for Aug. 13 in the board room of Varner Hall.