Editor’s Note — This is a message from Chancellor Ronnie Green to the entire university community, stakeholders and the public. It appeared Dec. 17 in the Omaha World-Herald
There’s been much discussion recently about the shared decision of University of Nebraska leadership to rethink our process for allocating state dollars to the four campuses.
Some of the discussion has lacked clarity or context. The result is that we risk viewing this as a campus vs. campus issue – when what we’re really doing is joining together to make decisions based on the best interests of all our faculty and 53,000 students, no matter which campus they’re on.
NU President Hank Bounds, my fellow chancellors Dr. Jeffrey Gold and Doug Kristensen and our chief business and academic officers, aided by data from independent higher education finance experts and in consultation with the Board of Regents, have spent more than a year analyzing our state appropriations allocation model.
We’ve concluded our current practice, in place since the 1990s, is no longer the fairest approach for distributing our limited state dollars. Going into the next biennium, we will take steps to close the fairness gap, taking into consideration factors such as student credit-hour production, the cost of delivering courses, the size and scale of our institutions and the unique role and mission of each campus.
The university’s leadership is unanimous in its support of our direction. It is based on thoughtful, collaborative analysis, driven by data and our desire to ensure that all students have the opportunity to be successful. It is pro-Nebraska and pro-student — the standard by which we measure all our decisions.
As chancellor of the largest institution in the NU system, I’ve been asked a number of questions about how the changes will impact the University of Nebraska–Lincoln specifically. Let me shed light on some of those.
First, it’s been suggested our university will have to make significant budget cuts because funds are being diverted to other campuses. To be sure, the state’s fiscal challenges are affecting us all. But assuming no further change in state appropriations, no campus will have to make cuts this biennium beyond our ongoing process to find $30 million in reductions to systemwide operations.
Furthermore, it’s not appropriate to consider only state dollars when looking at the university’s resources. The University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s total operational resources are projected to increase slightly next year. And our campus’ share of NU’s total state-aided budget will change by less than 1 percent.
I’ve been asked whether our work in agriculture and extension will be impacted. Few care more deeply about the university’s responsibility to advance agriculture and natural resources than I do, and in Nebraska, these should and must be long-term priorities. The Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources will receive proportionally the same amount of funding as it has previously.
Some have wondered why we would use an allocation model based on student credit hours when the University of Nebraska Medical Center has such a distinct mission. This illustrates that allocating dollars is part science, part art. Rather than implementing a pure model, we’re using data to inform our decisions and considering our unique needs where it makes sense. UNMC will receive state dollars based not on credit hours, but on an analysis of peer institutions.
Do I wish the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, the state’s flagship land-grand university, had more dollars to invest in our teaching, research and outreach missions? Of course I do.
Do our counterparts at UNO, UNK and UNMC wish the same? Absolutely.
But our responsibility is to be judicious, fair and accountable in stewarding the resources we do have. Recognizing that we are stronger together, we’ll take a global view, considering what’s best for the University of Nebraska as a whole instead of any institution in isolation.
Above all, any decision regarding the use of our dollars must be made with the goal of advancing the Board of Regents’ highest priority of ensuring an outstanding education for every student.
I’m proud of our efforts to ensure the University of Nebraska serves all of its students and the state effectively. This work, nor our collective commitment to our purpose, has never been more important in the 149-year history of the peoples’ university.