I am writing to update you on the university’s budget planning. As you may know, one important piece of our budget – state funding – was finalized recently when the Governor approved a state budget package for 2015-17 that includes critical support for our core operations as well as economic development and other initiatives across our campuses. I am grateful to the Governor and Legislature for their investment in the university, which will allow us to maintain affordability and build on the momentum we have sustained thanks to your good work.
With our state appropriations known, we are ready to bring a proposal to the Board of Regents that will fill in other key pieces of our budget. The Board will consider our budget plan – including an operating budget for 2015-16 and tuition rates for both 2015-16 and 2016-17 to help students and families better plan for the costs of college – at its meeting next Friday.
Our plan advances key goals of the University of Nebraska. It includes meaningful investments in salaries, an area where we know we have work to do to meet the Board’s goal of providing competitive compensation in order to recruit and retain talented employees. It includes targeted state support for exciting economic competitiveness initiatives. Most importantly, it ensures that the University of Nebraska will continue to be an excellent value, keeping college within reach for students and families who want to take advantage of the promises of higher education.
“[Our plan] ensures that the University of Nebraska will continue to be an excellent value, keeping college within reach for students and families who want to take advantage of the promises of higher education.”
The budget proposal requires cuts, as has been the case almost every year in recent memory because of our commitment to keeping tuition increases low while also investing in priorities. Cuts are always difficult, but I have confidence in the chancellors’ ability to manage these reductions in ways that will preserve the quality of the university. Going forward, we will continue to look for ways to be even more efficient with our limited resources.
Let me say a few words about the main components of our proposed plan:
- We are recommending a 3 percent increase in our salary pool. We compete globally for faculty and staff, and the marketplace has never been more competitive. While we will not close all the salary gaps that exist between us and our peers, we believe we have the potential to make meaningful progress with a 3 percent increase. In accordance with the Board’s Strategic Framework, raises will be awarded on the basis of merit.
- We are proposing tuition increases of 1.75 percent in 2015-16 and 2.5 percent in 2016-17 – the smallest increases in nearly three decades following back-to-back tuition freezes for Nebraska students. Under the proposed tuition rates, most resident undergraduates would pay, on average, about $3.50 more per credit hour next year and an additional $5 per credit hour in 2016-17. I know any increase in tuition has an impact on students and families. But even with these moderate increases, our costs would remain well below our peer averages. Tuition and fees on our campuses are currently at least 25% below the peers and on average our students graduate with less debt than students at similar institutions. We also plan to increase need-based financial aid at the same rate as tuition, so that net tuition costs do not go up for students with the greatest need.
- Thanks to targeted support approved by the Governor and Legislature, we will be able to invest in initiatives that will grow Nebraska’s economy and expand educational opportunities. The state’s investments will support staffing and operations and maintenance at the Health Science Education Complex, which will house expanded nursing and allied health programs on the UNK campus; our new biomedical technology institute jointly led by UNMC and UNO; expanded activities at the Nebraska Business Development Center; a proposed new institute for international trade and finance at UNL named in honor of former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and alumnus Clayton Yeutter; and construction and operations of the recently approved simulated learning center at UNMC, which could transform the way medical education is delivered.
- Thanks to an increased investment from the state, the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture will be able to bring its faculty salaries closer to market averages, hire a veterinarian, and build on its momentum in serving Nebraska agriculture.
We will never have the resources to do everything we want to do. But I believe our proposed budget is a strategic and responsible plan that serves the needs of students and families, improves our competitive position in the marketplace for talent, advances key initiatives that will grow our state’s economy, and demonstrates accountability to those who entrust their resources to us. It is a plan that is possible because of our continued partnership with the state, and because of your commitment to excellence in teaching, research and service. Your hard work has positioned us well for the future.
Thank you for all you do for the University of Nebraska.
President, University of Nebraska