To the Students, Faculty and Staff of the University of Nebraska:
I am writing with an update on our budget planning. As you may know, we got good news last week when Governor Ricketts signed the state budget package approved by the Legislature with no vetoes.
Considering the fiscal challenges the Governor and Legislature are grappling with – and the scale of the cuts we faced at the beginning of the legislative session – this final budget package puts us in a relatively positive position.
We would not have gotten to this outcome without the countless Nebraskans, starting with all of you, who have lifted up their voices for an affordable, competitive public University that transforms lives and grows the economy. The chancellors and I are grateful for this remarkable show of support for our 53,000 students and the vital role of higher education in Nebraska.
“With our state funding known, we’re in a better position to carefully consider cuts that have been proposed, campus feedback, and the long-term interests of our students, University and the state.”
Let me lay out where this budget puts us, both in terms of the work we have done to address our existing shortfall and next steps that the chancellors and I have begun to discuss.
Under the signed budget, the University’s funding will be reduced $11 million this year, and next year’s appropriation will be cut about $6 million. These reductions come on top of previous cuts in state funding which, combined with our rising costs, created a $46 million recurring shortfall.
We addressed that gap with a combination of spending cuts and tuition increases, including millions in operational reductions identified by the University-wide Budget Response Teams. The teams are continuing to make progress in implementing their strategies. Their work is not easy, and it will cause disruptions, but every dollar saved in operations is a dollar less we have to find in academic cuts or tuition increases.
The additional reductions in state funding – while smaller than what we originally faced – will add to our challenge significantly. We will manage this year’s one-time $11 million cut by using our dwindling cash and drawing on the prudence campuses have exercised in limiting hiring, purchasing and other spending.
The recurring $6 million cut beginning in 2018-19 is of much greater concern, particularly as we look ahead to the next biennium and the reality of Nebraska’s continuing fiscal issues. In February each campus rolled out proposed programmatic reductions in anticipation of reduced state funds. These were painful proposals, with real impacts on students, faculty and staff.
We will have no choice but to move forward with some cuts. Each campus’ process for making reductions looks a little different and it would be inappropriate for me to get ahead of any campus decisions. I can tell you that the chancellors and I – together with the Board of Regents, campus leadership teams and other stakeholders – will be working hard in the weeks and months ahead to finalize strategies for closing our shortfall and communicate our progress to you. With our budget cut known, we are in a better position to carefully consider what’s been proposed, the feedback campuses are receiving, and what choices will allow us to meet fiscal realities while also serving the long-term interests of our students, our University and the state.
The best news is that at this level of funding, we will not need to increase tuition across the board for 2018-19 beyond the 3.2 percent increase previously approved by the Board. We’re pleased that we will remain a great value for our students and families.
Even as we acknowledge the challenges before us, the chancellors and I share a great energy about where we’re headed as a University. We have real opportunities to work with our partners in business and agriculture, the Legislature and the Governor to advance our shared goal to grow this state. As we look to the University’s next 150 years, we’re convinced our best days are ahead of us.
That confidence is a result of the work you do every day. Thank you for your contributions to the University of Nebraska.
President, University of Nebraska