University of Nebraska braces itself for additional budget cuts

The University of Nebraska will be expected to shoulder one-third of Gov. Pete Ricketts’ proposed budget cuts despite making up only 13 percent of the state’s total budget. Graphic by Connor Bebee
Cassie Wade

The University of Nebraska is bracing itself for more budget cuts after Gov. Pete Ricketts proposed to cut the university’s budget by $11 million this year and $23 million next year, according to an email NU President Hank Bounds sent last Tuesday.

In his email, which went out to NU faculty and staff, Bounds said that under Ricketts’ plan, NU will “shoulder one-third of his proposed cuts” even though the university only makes up 13 percent of the state’s total budget.

These proposed cuts follow cuts made to NU for the 2017-18 school year. As reported in the Gateway in February of 2017, the NU system experienced a mid-year cut of $13.3 million prior to June 30, 2017. The university was also expected to cut $58 million from the budget plan over the next two years.

A tuition increase of 5.4 percent was implemented for the 2017-18 school year to help offset the cuts, according to an Omaha World-Herald article published on January 16. Tuition was going to be increased by another 3.2 percent for the 2018-19 school year. Bounds said in his email that next year’s numbers may have to be revisited with the proposed cuts.

NU also created budget response teams last year to help identify where cuts could be made. Bounds wrote in his email that the teams identified $30 million in savings but cannot be expected to capture more.

“Some program eliminations and tuition increases are a certainty for us moving forward,” Bounds said. “To that end, I have asked campus leadership teams, along with the cabinet at Varner Hall, to initiate processes for making reductions.”

Students are also allowed to provide input on where they’d like to see the cuts. In an email to UNO students sent on Wednesday, Chancellor Jeffrey Gold addressed the budget cuts. His email included a link to a form that allows students to share their suggestions to “maintain our momentum.”

“We want you to be involved in this process,” Gold said in the email. “We need your creativity and your perspectives as students.”

The email link was open until Monday. Students were able to remain anonymous or share their contact information.

Student body President Carlo Eby is also planning to send an email out to students to get their input.

“I’ll be asking for their stories and their input on why do they like UNO?” Eby said. “What do they believe is the value of being a part of the University of Nebraska? I’ll be taking those notes to the legislature, and I also encourage students to write to their senators.”

Eby said it’s important that UNO students, faculty and staff can provide input on the cuts because “we’re the ones who are directly impacted by this.”

“A small cut is not a bad thing,” Eby said. “We’re way past the point of this is a small cut. We’re at the point where this could potentially be detrimental to the learning environment or detrimental to the student experience overall.”

UNO senior emergency management major Alexis Anderson said she thinks the proposed budget cuts are “ridiculous.”

“The university doesn’t even take up that much of the Nebraska budget,” Anderson said. “It’s really disappointing that Ricketts doesn’t take schooling seriously.”

Anderson said she is worried that her degree program will be cut because the program consists of “such a small group of people.”

“You don’t know,” Anderson said. “They might cut majors. They might cut jobs.”

The NU Board of Regents will meet on Thursday in Lincoln, according to an NU press release. The proposed budget cuts are among the topics that will be discussed. The meeting is open to the public and will be audio-streamed live.