Economic development drives NU's proposed budget request
Under a two-year budget request to be considered by the Board of Regents, the University of Nebraska plans to seek state funds to support strategic initiatives that will attract talent, meet workforce needs through education and grow Nebraska’s economy.
The university system's proposed 2015-17 biennial budget request, which the board will consider at its July 18 meeting, was announced July 11 by Interim President James Linder. The request is due to the governor and Nebraska Legislature in September.
Linder said the university has identified a number of initiatives that would benefit from additional investment -- including those focused on engineering and information sciences, health care, national security, public-private partnerships and rural development -- all of which are key university strengths and critical to Nebraska and its economy.
“The University of Nebraska plays a leading role in ensuring the state’s economic competitiveness – starting with our excellent academic programs that educate thousands of graduates each year who go on to work at leading companies or start their own businesses,” Linder said. “The university has a long and successful history of partnering with the state to achieve our shared goals for attracting and developing talent, fostering research and innovation, and providing affordable, high-quality education that meets Nebraska’s workforce needs. We expect to continue that partnership by working together to advance University of Nebraska economic development initiatives that serve citizens and businesses across the state.”
The proposed budget request includes a $20 million economic competitiveness initiative. Areas of investment include:
• Nebraska Innovation Campus. Public and private investments in Innovation Campus already have provided a critical jump-start, including renovation of the 4-H Building into a state-of-the-art conference center. Additional investments could support the relocation of UNL’s Department of Food Science & Technology to Innovation Campus, which will expand capacity for faculty and student activities and foster new opportunities for joint food science research projects between the university and ConAgra Foods, the first private collaborator at Innovation Campus.
• The Peter Kiewit Institute, a collaboration between the University of Nebraska at Omaha College of Information Science & Technology and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Engineering. PKI’s strategic plan calls for significant growth in enrollment, faculty, research and other areas to better meet the needs of businesses in Omaha and across Nebraska. Additional support would leverage the $800,000 investment for PKI that the Board approved in May as part of NU’s 2014-15 budget.
• The Health Science Education Complex, a collaboration between the University of Nebraska Medical Center and the University of Nebraska at Kearney that will expand UNMC nursing and allied health programs on the UNK campus. The facility will create space for hundreds more Kearney-based nursing and allied health professions students, positioning the university to better meet health needs in rural Nebraska, where shortages of health care workers are especially acute. The nursing and allied health expansion in Kearney was part of the university’s Building a Healthier Nebraska initiative, which received state support in 2012. NU’s 2014-15 operating budget includes $500,000 for faculty hires at the Health Science Education Complex to meet increased student demand.
• The National Strategic Research Institute, a university-wide initiative focused on supporting the mission of the United States Strategic Command. NU faculty associated with NSRI, established in 2012, are pursuing a number of critical projects to advance national security and in NSRI’s first year attracted $9 million in contract funding to support their research.
• The Rural Futures Institute, a university-wide initiative focused on sustaining and enhancing the economy and quality of life in nonmetropolitan areas in Nebraska and beyond. A state investment would leverage the university’s $500,000 investment in the Rural Futures Institute for 2014-15.
• Public-private partnerships that leverage the role of each NU campus as an economic driver for the surrounding community. NU is working to advance public-private partnerships on all four campuses.
The proposed biennial budget request also includes support for targeted investments to help faculty and staff salaries catch up to peer institutions; NU’s Programs of Excellence, high-priority academic programs across the four campuses; Collegebound Nebraska, the financial aid program that promises full tuition assistance for low-income students; and the “college pipeline” commitments the university made to the White House earlier this year as part of a national initiative to expand college access and success among underrepresented students. The request seeks a funding increase of about 1 percent for core operations, including information technology support, utilities and building operation and maintenance.
The Board also will consider a proposed biennial budget request for the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture in Curtis. NCTA is seeking state support for faculty enhancement, including hiring a meat science instructor and veterinarian, classroom and laboratory equipment replacement, and other investments critical to its success.
Per historical practice, neither the university nor NCTA will submit formal salary requests until after collective bargaining on the UNO and UNK campuses has concluded. For illustrative purposes, the biennial budget requests shows scenarios for salary increases ranging from 0 percent to 3 percent.
The University of Nebraska currently receives $540 million in state appropriations. NCTA receives $2.8 million.