Regents finalize tuition freeze for Nebraskans for 2013-14

It’s official: Tuition for all Nebraska students attending the University of Nebraska will be frozen for the 2013-14 academic year, the first phase of a two-year commitment the university has made as part of its “affordability compact” with the state. The Board of Regents finalized the resident tuition freeze, along with the full NU operating budget for next year, during its June meeting.

Fred and Pamela Buffett

Through the affordability compact, the university promised to freeze tuition for Nebraskans for 2013-14 and 2014-15 if the state would renew its investment in higher education after five years of essentially flat funding for operations.

The Legislature and Gov. Dave Heineman recently approved a 4 percent annual increase in state appropriations for NU for the upcoming biennium. As a result, tuition for all Nebraska students – undergraduate, graduate and professional, on-campus and online – will be frozen for the next two years. The average undergraduate will save about $1,000.

“I’m very grateful to Governor Heineman and members of the Legislature for their support of the university’s affordability compact, which will help ensure quality, accessible higher education for Nebraskans,” President James B. Milliken said. “Their investment in the University of Nebraska puts us in a position not only to support important priorities, but also to freeze tuition for Nebraskans for two years – a step we know will be welcomed by thousands of students and families in the state.”

NU an even better value

With the tuition freeze, resident tuition increases since 2006 average slightly more than 4.5 percent, below the national average. The university has not frozen tuition on any of its campuses since 1990. Tuition and fees at each of NU’s four campuses continue to be well below the average costs of peer institutions – and Milliken said he is pleased that the tuition freeze ensures NU will be an even better value for students and families.

For 2013-14, resident undergraduate tuition at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln will remain $216 per credit hour (excluding differential tuition rates). Resident undergraduate tuition will remain $196.75 per credit hour at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and $174.50 per credit hour at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. Tuition rates at the University of Nebraska Medical Center vary by college.

Nonresident tuition will increase 3 percent next year – the lowest increase since 1997.

Other budget highlights

The 2013-14 budget approved by the Board of Regents totals about $2.3 billion, a moderate and sustainable increase of about 3 percent over 2012-13. That includes a “state-aided budget” – the budget comprising state appropriations and tuition revenue that supports the university’s general operations – of $828 million.

The operating budget includes a 3 percent increase in the salary pool for faculty and staff outside the collective bargaining units at UNO and UNK. The funds will be distributed on the basis of merit and performance. Faculty salaries at UNL and UNMC lag 7.5 percent and 9 percent, respectively, behind peer averages.

The operating budget also includes a $2.5 million investment in Programs of Excellence, which are high-priority academic areas across the university. Programs of Excellence funds are awarded to the campuses on a competitive basis to enhance the success and reputation of outstanding programs such as early childhood education, water, public health, and information science and technology.

Combined with the resident tuition freeze, those critical investments will require about $2 million in budget reallocations next year. This comes on top of $76 million in reallocations the university has implemented since 2000. Milliken noted that the university will continue to be strategic and entrepreneurial in developing its budget and identifying efficiencies.

Already, NU spends 4 percent less per student than it did in 2000, adjusted for inflation and enrollment growth. In the same time period, the number of FTE university employees supported by tax and tuition dollars has declined by nearly 100 – even as enrollment has grown from 45,000 to 50,000 and research expenditures have grown from $100 million to nearly $300 million.

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