By Beth Flynn
Chancellor Nancy Belck took time out this week to answer a few questions about the recent round of budget cuts at UNO. Details of her conversation with Gateway Senior Staff Writer Beth Flynn are found below.
Q. What was decided during the Unicameral’s summer special session?
A. For the 2002-03 fiscal year, the University of Nebraska was given no choice in reducing the budget by $15.2 million. This challenge was spread out among all four campuses and Central Administration. UNO had to cut $2.86 million of its budget. UNO has taken many steps to begin this process to meet the new budget amount. Details on how the chancellor proposed to take these steps were released to the public on Sept 10.
Q. Were all of the programs affected in some way?
A. Not all of the programs were affected equally. For certain programs, it was some of the people and resources that were taken away. All of UNO was affected by the cutting of some part-time staff. UNO depends greatly on their hard work. The increase of class sizes will also affect most students. Additionally, fewer options for classes will be available.
Q. How were the programs that were affected by the budget cuts selected?
A. It was a matter of which programs would have the least amount of impact on the students, and which programs could still be beneficial to the students with fewer workers and resources. For example, take the Learning Center.
"It was very important but there were fewer students using it."
The majority of the students weren’t using it for help with their writing skills. However, students are not left without options for getting extra help if needed.
"Metro has a program similar to the Learning Center and has offered for students to go there for extra help."
Q. Is there any chance these programs may be brought back in the future?
A. It will all depend on future funding. These programs were cut permanently and since an increase in the budget is not expected, it would not be short term. The programs may be brought back if the budget allows and student need is shown
Q. Will there be any form of help for those employees who lost their jobs?
A. Each one will receive 90 days of pay and benefits — even the ones who should only receive two weeks’ pay. The university is also assisting them in finding new places of employment, working on their resumes and even looking for jobs here on campus.
"We are doing all we can to help these people. They were loyal employees; they were not let go because of their inability to do the job. It was because of the budget reductions we have to lose them."
Q. Are these the last budget cuts for this year or are there more to come? If there are more, when do you expect them?
A. "Right now, we are fairly confident that there will not be any more for this academic year."
As for the upcoming years, for the 2003-05 academic years, UNO is not expecting increases in funds and will probably be looking for more reductions.
"We will probably not be out of this for at least the next three years."
Q. Was UNO expecting these budget cuts?
A. Based on the shortfall of Nebraska funds, the university knew there were going to be cuts. What concerned us was the amount these cuts were going to cost the university. At first during the meeting, $20 million was being asked and then $10 million was proposed instead. They compromised with $15 million.
"We were disappointed with the how much it was going to be but glad it wasn’t higher."
Q. What kind of effect will upcoming budget cuts have on UNO — more of an effect or less?
A. There will be more affects next time. Each time cuts have been made, the cuts started with positions that are vacant and cut what would be the least disruptive to the university.
"However, we have had to cut so much already that next time it will be even harder to decide on what to reduce."
Q. What are your thoughts on the budget cuts and for the future of UNO?
A. "No one likes where the cuts are; a lot of thought went into these decisions. We tried to make the cuts where it would be the least disruptive to the UNO community. It is very difficult at this time right now and very hard to make these decisions but everyone’s goal is to keep UNO strong. My hope is for the faculty and students to stay strong and pull together while we face these challenges."