Over the past seven months we’ve been engaged in a university-wide effort to change the way we do business as we face a $49 million budget shortfall created by state funding cuts and our rising costs.
Hundreds of you have participated in this process. Your efforts put us in a better position to navigate this challenge.
We are beginning to implement recommendations of the subject-matter experts who made up the Budget Response Teams, responsible for identifying cuts, policy and process changes, and new structures in university operations. While some implementation specifics continue to be determined, we do want to share changes that are being finalized now.
“As we do the difficult work of making cuts during a period of momentum, we will need to be creative in finding ways to do more with less, so we can continue to serve the state.”
We will be thoughtful with these changes, but some new realities will not be convenient or easy. Job reductions will impact real people, with real livelihoods, though we will capture personnel savings through attrition wherever possible. Each of us will need to do things differently. And even though the Budget Response Teams focused on non-academic areas, we’ll need to consider further cuts across our campuses to address the financial challenges we face. That’s the reality given the scale of the recurring budget gap before us.
The most sobering news we can deliver is that our toughest work is still ahead. The Budget Response Team members have done remarkable work in re-thinking our operations in order to help protect our highest priorities of affordability and academic excellence. But there is no question that our state’s ongoing fiscal uncertainties will impact both tuition and academic programs.
We have a choice. We can choose to hunker down and let change happen to us. Or we can choose to see opportunity in this challenge – to be more collaborative, to deploy resources and talent across our campuses as effectively as possible, and to maximize the technology available to us. The University of Nebraska is as important to the state’s economy and quality of life as it has ever been. So as we do the difficult work of making cuts during a period of remarkable momentum, we’ll all need to be creative in finding ways to do more with less so that we can continue to serve the state effectively.
The changes ahead include the following. We hope you will visit www.nebraska.edu/BRT for more detail.
- In information technology, under the leadership of Vice President for Information Technology Mark Askren, we’re building on efforts that began well over a year ago that resulted in the university-wide OneIT team. Newly integrated IT practices will create benefits beyond dollar savings. For example, campuses currently have small individual cyber security teams. Under a shared model, a university-wide security team of 25 will serve the needs of all campuses.
- Our Budget Response Teams in energy and facilities brought forward a single plan for university-wide leadership in these areas. A newly unified facilities team will yield more consistent practices and make the best use of resources, like software systems, and expertise across the campuses. The new structure should also help us expand our ongoing efforts to reduce energy costs, already expected to save $1 million. Our colleague Mark Miller will lead this new team.
- A new university-wide procurement function will integrate our procurement resources, talent and practices to provide more effective supplier management and cost savings. For example, to minimize the impact of the volatile gas market, the procurement team recently teamed with our primary supplier for gases used in research labs to deploy a more cost-effective delivery model – which will not only keep prices low, but also decrease our carbon footprint.
The team, led by NU’s Maggie Witt, will implement other cost-saving changes in the coming months, including centralization of university vehicle purchases and maintenance.
- A new university-wide human resources team will develop more cohesive policies and practices across our campuses. Some changes we can implement quickly, like moving from monthly basic retirement enrollment periods to semi-annual enrollment periods and reducing printed benefits materials. The benefits team has already standardized a university-wide Reduction in Force policy, available on each campus human resources website, to ensure that employees facing position elimination are treated consistently regardless of campus. Our new NU human resources team will be led by our colleague Bruce Currin.
- On Sept. 1, we’ll reduce the mileage reimbursement rate for employees using their personal vehicles for university travel from the current IRS rate of 53.5 cents per mile to 25 cents per mile, which represents the cost to operate a university-owned vehicle.
- Next week we’ll bring to the Board of Regents a proposal to contract with Concur, which provides a travel expense reimbursement system that will reduce paperwork and labor. Our current practices don’t take full advantage of current technologies. The new system will automate data delivery, smart phone-based reporting and reconciliation for travel expenses across the university.
- We’ll develop university-wide policies that will significantly cut our printing and copying costs. For example, we’ll look at keeping more print and copy jobs in-house instead of outsourcing them. We’ll also ask all employees to reduce individual printing – a change each of us can make right now, even before a policy is in place.
Strategies in other operational areas are nearing finalization, under the leadership of experts across the university, and we’ll share those with you soon:
- Printing and copying, led by Emily Poeschl, director of marketing at UNO, and Robert Jennings, senior manager for materials management at UNMC.
- Financial operations and accounting, led by Dr. Rodney Markin, associate vice chancellor for business development at UNMC.
- Public relations, marketing and communications, led by Jackie Ostrowicki, NU assistant vice president and director of marketing and strategic communications, and Teresa Paulsen, chief communication and marketing officer at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
- Travel, led by NU Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer David Lechner.
We’re also convening university-wide teams in campus safety and parking to explore opportunities to integrate and save dollars. Teams in research services and institutional research are examining best practices for ways to conduct research more easily across the campuses.
Clearly, there’s much work ahead. We must move forward quickly, yet with due diligence, so that we capture the $30 million in savings we are anticipating from the Budget Response Team’s work. We’re pleased to have Marjorie Kostelnik, past dean of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Education and Human Sciences, on board to lead an inclusive implementation process. In the meantime, we continue to welcome your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you.
Hank M. Bounds, Ph.D.
President, University of Nebraska
Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D.
Chancellor, University of Nebraska Medical Center
and University of Nebraska at Omaha
Ronnie Green, Ph.D.
Chancellor, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Doug Kristensen, J.D.
Chancellor, University of Nebraska at Kearney