Chancellor announces $2.9 million in proposed budget cuts

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Chancellor announces $2.9 million in proposed budget cuts
Academic Planning Committee schedules May 2 public hearing

The sun sets as Nebraska's Love Library cupola glows over downtown Lincoln. Chancellor Ronnie Green announced Dec. 5 that the university will not be moving forward with additional proposed budget cuts.
Craig Chandler | University Communication

University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Ronnie Green has proposed budget reductions for 2018-19 that will eliminate two academic programs and at least 18 faculty and staff positions, as well as depleting funds needed to retain faculty and support academic programs.

The seven proposals, totaling $2.9 million, come in response to the 1 percent reduction in state support for the university, approved by the Legislature and signed by the governor earlier this month.

Although the cut in state support is more manageable than the 4 percent reduction originally proposed, Green said the proposed budget cuts will hamper the university’s ability to deliver upon its three-part mission of teaching, research and service.

“Personnel are the driving force of this institution,” he said. “No matter how you slice it, this is a reduction in salary dollars we need to attract and retain the personnel who are critical to our mission.”

Chancellor Ronnie Green
Chancellor Ronnie Green

The proposals call for the elimination of the electronics engineering degree program and the Center for Instructional Innovation. They also call for significant funding reductions to the Rural Futures Institute and to the Survey, Research and Methodology program.

“These cuts that will have a significant impact upon the university’s operations and our students, faculty and staff,” he said. “Even though they are more manageable than what we would have faced, they still represent lost opportunities for the state’s premier land-grant research institution.”

The proposed cuts were presented in closed session April 18 to the Academic Planning Committee, a university-wide group that works with the administration to review and make recommendations on proposed programmatic cuts and reallocations.

The committee scheduled a public hearing for May 2. More information on how to participate will be forthcoming.

Details of the proposals and their rationales:

Reduce Rural Futures Institute budget ($771,400): The institute, established in 2013, addresses the economic, demographic and technological issues facing rural communities. Cost savings will be realized by reducing the institute’s staffing and operating budget and by leveraging Rural Futures Institute programs with those of Nebraska Extension’s Community Vitality Initiative. Five faculty positions will be eliminated as a result of the budget reduction.

Cut funding for the Survey Research and Methodology Program ($577,013): The program, one of four doctoral programs in survey research worldwide, trains students on innovative practices in the collection and analysis of regional, national and international survey data. Although current academic program offerings would be maintained, the program would be streamlined and two faculty salary lines and two staff positions would be eliminated.

Reallocate state-appropriated funds for the Department of Statistics from the College of Arts and Sciences to the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources ($556,813): The Department of Statistics has been jointly operated by the College of Arts and Sciences and the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources since its creation in 2003. The Arts and Sciences budget, which supports several faculty members, a full-time staff member and a number of graduate teaching associates, would be transferred to IANR, which would be required to cut the equivalent of four faculty positions elsewhere to fully fund the Statistics Department.

Eliminate Electronics Engineering bachelor’s degree ($350,000): Rapid developments in the field have left the electronics engineering degree program outdated. Three faculty positions would be eliminated instead of reinvested into the College of Engineering. The electrical engineering degree program would serve in place of the electronics engineering program. Both are offered by the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Eliminate pooled salary funds held by the Executive Vice Chancellor’s Office ($309,751): Unencumbered funds resulting from position vacancies would be eliminated, instead of being used for future hires of faculty and staff. These funds could otherwise have been used to address salary inequities, to retain faculty at risk of being recruited away by other institutions or to otherwise invest in Nebraska’s faculty.

Eliminate the Center for Instructional Innovation ($169,230): Formed in 1993 to apply basic research in cognitive psychology, linguistics and cognitive science to the design and evaluation of educational practices in the nation’s schools, the center currently includes one faculty position. The affiliated Accommodation Resource Center, which supplies technology-based support for individuals with disabilities, will continue without change.

Shift salary for the director of Buros Center for Testing from state-appropriated funds to revolving funds ($165,793): The Buros Center for Testing operates as an independent, non-profit organization with a mission to improve the science and practice of testing and assessment. It provides fee-based services for appraisals and consultation, generating sufficient revenues to support its director’s salary and benefits.