The University of Nebraska Board of Regents met virtually on Friday to implement financial measures and approve NU’s operating budget, including $43 million in permanent cuts.
In addition to the financial measures and the operating budget, the regents also approved Fund B University Program and Facilities and welcomed the 2020-21 student regents and faculty senate presidents to their first meeting.
On June 19, NU President Ted Carter announced the university system will undergo $43 million in permanent cuts, about 4.3% of NU’s annual budget, spread out over the next three years.
During the next academic year, NU’s current budget will decrease by 0.2% during fiscal year 2020-21, followed by annual decreases of 1.6% and 2.6% the following two years.
Specific cuts to each NU campus budget include: 5.5% at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 3.9% at both the University of Nebraska Omaha and University of Nebraska Kearney and 2.9% at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
The Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture was not asked to make cuts to its budget due to its size and a desire to keep the budget whole.
Carter said the cuts for NU may have been larger had its leaders not shown a “bias for action” in implementing new policies, including NU’s commitment to being open in the fall, the Nebraska Promise tuition program, a two-year tuition freeze and reduced online tuition rates.
Tuition at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for the 2020-21 academic year will increase by 2.75% for resident students and 3.75% for non-resident students, as previously approved by the regents in June 2019.
Undergraduate tuition rates will increase to $259 and $830 per credit hour for resident and non-resident students respectively. Graduate tuition rates will increase to $341 and $996 for resident and non-resident students respectively, according to the meeting agenda.
Carter said enrollment projections indicate a 4.7% decrease in enrollment and tuition revenue, about $17 million for 2020-21, but tuition revenue is expected to remain flat for 2021-22 and increase by 1% during 2022-23.
In a time when people are facing three pandemics — the coronavirus, the economic situation and racial injustice — Carter said the budget proposal puts students, NU’s top priority, first.
UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green echoed Carter’s remarks and said first-year enrollment at UNL is up, despite expectations that enrollment numbers were going to decrease. UNL, he said, remains focused on students, and in doing so, will yield great results.
The regents also approved 2020-21 Fund B UPFF fees, which cover staff salaries and operating costs for various student services and related maintenance for the facilities, according to the Association of Students of the University of Nebraska.
UNL’s Campus Recreation was the only Fund B UPFF fee user to request an increase in UPFF allocations — $35,000 — for fiscal year 2020-21. The increase will support funding for student sport clubs and rising facility maintenance costs, according to the agenda.
The addendum also states that, beginning in fall 2020, part-time student fees will increase to provide University Health Center access to all students.
Previously, students who took six credit hours or less did not have access to the health center unless they paid on a fee-for-service basis or elected to pay the student fee, according to the agenda. The agenda states it is essential that all students have access to proper health care and mental health services.
As a result of the changes in allocations, Fund B UPFF fees for part-time students who take six credit hours or less will increase by $128.14 to $479.37 each semester.
Fund B UPFF fees for full-time students who take seven credit hours or more will decrease by $6.42 to $590.86 each semester.
Carter recommended an addendum to expand application of NU’s Crisis Leave Sharing Policy to temporary employees and address needs related to the coronavirus. After being approved by the regents, the policy change became retroactively effective starting April 21, 2020.
The policy states that NU employees may donate a portion of their accrued vacation — up to five days — to an employee with a serious illness or to an employee caring for a family member with a serious illness. The policy now extends to temporary employees and is available for employees who must supervise their children due to school closures, as well as other needs.
Carter and his designees now have the authority to pursue actions that would aid NU finances without requiring the termination of critical employees. The policy change clarifies Carter’s authority to implement unexpected leave of absences, full-time equivalent reductions and salary reductions when significant financial constraints are present.
The past two years, NU leaders have been revising the Student Code of Conduct. During the board’s public comment section of the meeting, three graduate students expressed concern that proposed revisions to the Code of Conduct could adversely affect graduate students.
Eric Rodene, president of UNL’s Graduate Student Assembly, said the revisions were rushed and GSA did not get a chance to discuss the changes at one of their meetings. Rodene said the revisions were given to GSA following its final meeting in April, leaving graduate students disadvantaged as they had to discuss the wording of the Code of Conduct and its changes via email.
The graduate students asked the board to hear their concerns and include them in future conversations.
At the meeting, Board of Regents chairperson Jim Pillen introduced the board’s new student and faculty representatives from each NU campus. Roni Miller, ASUN president and a senior spanish and political science double major, will represent UNL’s students. Nicole Buan, Faculty Senate president and an associate professor of biochemistry, will represent UNL’s faculty.
The regents plan to meet in person at Varner Hall for their next meeting on Aug. 14.
At the meeting, Carter will unveil his five-year strategic plan, which was delayed due to the coronavirus. The regents will also consider NU’s 2021-23 budget request to the state, which includes an annual 2% increase in state appropriations. For fiscal year 2020-21, NU asked for a 3.7% increase in state appropriations compared to last year’s budget request, which was already approved.
Carter’s investiture is also planned for Aug. 14, according to Pillen.
Though there is a lot of uncertainty and hard work ahead, Pillen said NU leadership is taking both action and risk that will place the system in a position of strength.
“There is no place on the planet that will come out of this challenge … better than the University of Nebraska because of the leadership that is in place,” Pillen said. “I think we have a new phrase for 2020: Action for Nebraskans.”