I hope you have had a restful summer with family and friends. I’m looking forward to the start of what I know will be another successful academic year at the University of Nebraska.
Today I provided a brief update to the Board of Regents on the “Five-Point Plan” we announced in June to navigate the fiscal challenges before us. I want to share the same information with you
I have been heartened to hear from so many of you who are energized by our commitment to being proactive in the face of our challenges rather than defensive. None of us has any illusions about the hard work ahead, but the chancellors, vice presidents and I are confident that our approach will make us an even more competitive, dynamic and efficient university.
We have taken the following actions in line with our plan:
First, we have put short-term strategies in place that will allow us to manage our $27 million shortfall for this fiscal year without dipping into our cash reserves. A hiring freeze on non-faculty positions is in place across the system, as is a quarterly operating budget rescission. I have also asked the chancellors to exercise restraint in spending on discretionary areas like travel and equipment. While disruptive, these temporary actions will help keep our budget balanced in the near term.
Second, we are moving forward on the longer-term strategies we identified to reimagine the University of Nebraska in the face of our new realities of rising costs, muted revenue growth and a challenging enrollment environment. These strategies are meant to not only balance the budget, but also free up resources that can be redeployed to priorities that will position the University of Nebraska to compete at the highest levels.
- I have tasked Chancellors Rodney Bennett and Jeff Gold with forming a team to determine how to report UNL, UNMC and Office of the President research as a single entity. Our current separate reporting puts us at a competitive disadvantage. A unified approach will move us closer to our goal to be readmitted into the prestigious Association of American Universities and be counted among the nation’s most outstanding institutions.
- We are initiating a zero-based budget review of non-faculty positions to ensure that every expenditure is justified. We will also review operating functions that remain decentralized. We have no predetermined answers, but these reviews will require us to think carefully about every dollar and whether we have additional opportunities to take advantage of our scale and operate more efficiently. We are working closely with our business and finance leadership teams to finalize these processes and will communicate next steps to the relevant units soon.
- Campus teams are modeling the costs of total cost of attendance scholarships at various ACT score thresholds as part of our goal to compete more effectively for top students in Nebraska.
- Our data team is creating a dashboard that will measure our instructional programs against the Nebraska Coordinating Commission’s minimum performance standards. Our goal is to more effectively monitor our programs in real time. We also are initiating a conversation with the chief academic officers about collaborative opportunities in programs that are offered by multiple campuses.
- Finally, I have directed a review of the University’s investments in our system-wide institutes to determine whether we are missing opportunities to achieve a greater return in federal research funding – a key performance metric for AAU admission.
We have a great deal of work ahead of us, without the luxury of time to find necessary savings. As I have told the Board of Regents, forward progress on our Five-Point Plan is our highest objective. We will need to be diligent in setting priorities and adhering to them, but I have every confidence that working together, we will seize this opportunity to create a blueprint for the future of higher education.
We will continue to share details with you, as well as opportunities to engage in this important process, as we take additional steps toward our plan. Thank you for all you do for the University of Nebraska.
President, University of Nebraska System