NU, state colleges join Governor in proposed compact to ensure affordability for Nebraskans

Gov. Dave Heineman, University of Nebraska President James B. Milliken and Nebraska State College System Chancellor Stan Carpenter today announced that they have joined in a proposed compact that would help ensure a strong higher education system in Nebraska, including continued affordable access to education for Nebraska students and families.

Under the agreement, Governor Heineman is proposing a biennial state budget that funds the university and state colleges at a level that would allow them to freeze tuition for Nebraska students for the next two years. Under the Governor’s funding recommendations, the university’s state appropriation would increase from $498 million this year to $541 million in fiscal year 2015 – an average increase of 4.2 percent per year over the biennium. This would be the first increase in state support to the university in some time; NU’s state appropriations have been essentially flat for the past five years.

The state college system’s appropriation would increase from $45.5 million now to $49.6 million in fiscal year 2015.

If the Legislature approves the Governor’s budget proposal, the university and state colleges have will freeze tuition for Nebraska students attending UNL, UNK, UNO, UNMC, Chadron State, Wayne State and Peru State for 2013-14 and 2014-15. At the university, tuition would be frozen for all Nebraska students – whether undergraduate or graduate, on-campus or online.

Based on a 10-year history of tuition increases at NU, students would save an estimated $1,000 over the next two years.

“In Nebraska, we understand that education is the great equalizer and that’s why education is a priority for me,” Governor Heineman said. “Investing in education is important to Nebraska’s future. It is also critical that our postsecondary institutions manage their resources efficiently to control their costs.”

Milliken said, “I want to thank Governor Heineman for his commitment to investing in higher education in Nebraska. State support is crucial to sustaining the priorities of a great University of Nebraska system – including affordable access to high-quality education. The investment recommended by the Governor will put us in a strong position to continue to serve Nebraskans, and I am grateful for his leadership in recognizing the important role higher education plays in economic competitiveness. I look forward to discussing the affordability compact with members of the Legislature and others.”

(Read President Milliken’s letter to all NU employees about the affordability compact here.)

Milliken noted that there has never been a more important time for the Governor and Legislature to invest in higher education. In the next few years, two-thirds of all jobs in Nebraska will require education beyond high school, meaning Nebraska must produce many more college graduates to meet the needs of the 21st-century workforce if it is to remain competitive.

State appropriations comprise two-thirds of NU’s state-aided budget, so a stable base of state funds is a key ingredient to the university’s ability to continue to ensure affordable access. The university also depends on support from the state to support other priorities, including competitive salaries and benefits for employees, leading academic programs and others. The recent trend of flat state appropriations is not sustainable if NU is to remain both competitive and affordable, Milliken said. The Governor’s funding recommendation represents a renewed commitment to state investment in higher education and would help sustain a great university and ensure that a college education is within reach for Nebraskans.

Governor Heineman and Milliken worked to develop the affordability compact proposal in recent weeks; once details were completed, the Governor contacted Carpenter about a similar compact with the state colleges.

“I readily agreed with the idea of a compact that would provide the NSCS with an appropriation level that would allow us to freeze tuition,” Carpenter said. “It is good for our students; it is good for our colleges; and it is good for Nebraska. Our student body at the state colleges will save over $1 million the first year when compared to an average tuition increase. Students can graduate on time with less debt. This compact with the state is an important step in assuring that our three colleges can continue to provide thousands of opportunities.”

In 2009, Nebraska reorganized its preschool through college (P-16) initiative to strengthen the education the state provides to Nebraska students. Under the Governor’s leadership, one of the goals of the P-16 Initiative is to provide affordable access for Nebraska students to attend the state’s postsecondary institutions.


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