Budget cuts hit home

Photo courtesy of The University of Nebraska at Omaha

Will Patterson

University of Nebraska President Hank Bounds delivered a presentation at an on-campus open forum Friday concerning the upcoming $58 million budget cuts.

Bound’s speech sought to clarify what the budget cuts mean for faculty, students and Nebraska. This year the university will be experiencing a mid-year $13.3 million budget cut prior to June 30, 2017. Following that, the university must cut $58 million from the budget plan for the next two years.

Nebraska’s system of setting state budgets requires the state legislature to approve the changes, much like how bills are passed into law. The predicted cuts are currently the recommendation of Gov. Pete Rickets that will need to go through a legislative process before becoming reality.

Bounds argued that the decision to pull funding from the University of Nebraska was a poor decision. Citing the university’s return of $6 for every $1 put in, he emphasized the success the University of Nebraska has seen in improving Nebraska’s outlook for the future.

“The worst thing that we can do right now, for the future of our state, for the future of our children, is take our foot off the accelerator,” Bounds said.

Part of the forum involved reviewing how past cuts have impacted the university, and primarily, its students. In 2003, mid-year cuts caused a jump in tuition which resulted in the loss of 1,500 students. Bounds said he believes the university was just recently fully recovering from those cuts.

Despite Bounds’ explanation for why not to cut the university’s funding, the truth seems to be that the proposed cuts will pass through the legislature without much hindrance. This led to the creation of a budget response team to deal with the mid-year cut and upcoming $58 million cut.

The budget response team has two guiding principles, Bounds said. These include protecting the academic integrity of the institution and protecting affordability. Still, doubts were cast by the university president.

“I want to be candid with everyone,” Bounds said, “I do not think that we can get through this without violating both those principles.”

The deadlines for the budget team will require the larger working groups to submit their recommendations to the Steering Committee by March 27. After that, the Steering Committee’s recommendations will be given to Bounds for consideration with university chancellors.

Already the university experienced a hiring freeze that went into effect in November. Measures such as these may continue for some time into the future, according to Bounds.

The forum shed light on the reality that tuition increases appear to be unavoidable. The only two ways to overcome this gap in the budget, according to Bounds, is through revenue generation and cuts. A major step in this process will be the search for further efficiency with the University of Nebraska.

This led the forum to observe explanations as to why money can’t be pulled from other sections of the $2.5 billion budget. Much of this budget is dedicated to certain sections of the university and can’t be reallocated.

Throughout these cuts, the UNO chancellor search will continue in full force. A point of concern expressed during the open forum was the salaries of the chancellor and other leadership positions within the University of Nebraska.

Bounds expressed his belief that the price was worth the quality when hiring leaders for the university.


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