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Message to the university system regarding state funding

On May 30, 2017, leadership of the four-institution University of Nebraska system sent the following message to faculty and staff of the four-institution University of Nebraska system.

To the Faculty, Staff and Students of the University of Nebraska:

As you likely know, the Legislature has concluded its session after finalizing a two-year budget package for the state, including funding for the University of Nebraska. With our state appropriation known, we can move forward on other pieces of our budget, including tuition increases and the cost reduction efforts we began earlier this year.

The outcome of the legislative session is not what we had hoped for. Between reductions approved by the Legislature and additional cuts from Governor Ricketts’ vetoes – and when unavoidable cost increases like health insurance are factored in – we will face a recurring budget shortfall of $49 million by summer 2019.

While this is a challenging budget situation, your good work has helped ensure that our state funding was not reduced more deeply. Your efforts in serving as outstanding ambassadors for the university, in inspiring Nebraskans to speak out in our support, and in reminding the people of our state of the vital work we do in teaching, research and service have made a difference. We’re truly appreciative.

Our budget situation and the increasingly competitive higher education landscape mean we will have to adapt quickly. We must do everything we can to emerge as a stronger university, even better positioned to join with our partners to grow Nebraska’s economy and quality of life.

Later today the University will release its proposed 2017-18 operating budget, including our plans for addressing our shortfall. The budget will go before the Board of Regents on June 1. Here are the key elements, in advance of their wider release:


We know students and parents are working hard to invest in a college education. The proposed budget sets tuition rates for the next two years to help students and families plan, and includes tuition increases. In 2017-18, most resident undergraduates would pay $10 to $12 more per credit hour. In 2018-19, a typical resident undergraduate would pay $6 to $7.50 more per credit hour. This is subject to change if our state funding is cut further.

We do not make this recommendation lightly. As you know, state funding and tuition are the major sources of revenue for university operations, and moderate increases in tuition will help us close our budget gap while maintaining the quality of education our students deserve. The increase preserves our affordability, especially considering that we will increase need-based aid at the same rate as tuition. Our campuses will remain a great value compared to similar institutions.

Cost Reductions

In January, we shared a university-wide process for re-imagining our operations. Our goal was to reduce spending, while also positioning us to deliver on our mission. This will help us as we face a future in which resources will continue to be limited.

Nearly 100 of our employees served on Budget Response Teams that recommended cuts in areas like finance, human resources, IT and travel. We are grateful for their hard work, and we will continue to engage stakeholders on cost reduction ideas as we analyze implementation options. Based on our conversations with team members, we project we could realize up to $30 million in savings over the next several years – savings that will help us protect our academic core.

Reducing our operating costs by this amount will be challenging. But with challenge comes opportunity – to be more collaborative, to become more productive, and to create the kind of university we want to be. We’re going to be totally focused on the future – engaging Nebraskans about what their university can do to continue to grow the economy, meet the needs of the workforce, improve lives as we have done for nearly 150 years.

We invite you to join us in that conversation. Please continue to send your ideas and questions to us at president@nebraska.edu. We’ll update you when new information on our budget planning is available and in the meantime, we look forward to your ongoing ideas and input.

Thank you for all you do for the University of Nebraska.

Hank M. Bounds, Ph.D., President, University of Nebraska

Jeffrey Gold, M.D., Chancellor, University of Nebraska Medical Center and Interim Chancellor, University of Nebraska at Omaha

Ronnie Green, Ph.D., Chancellor, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Doug Kristensen, J.D., Chancellor, University of Nebraska at Kearney

Date Issued

Tuesday, May 30, 2017 - 09:30

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Vice chancellor for business and finance statement on salary increases

On May 23, 2017, Vice Chancellor for Business and Finance Chris Jackson issued the following statement to faculty and staff at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Anticipating Board of Regents approval of the university’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget on June 1, a salary increase pool of 1.75 percent for faculty and staff has been distributed today. An additional 0.25 percent will fund faculty promotions.

General salary funds are to be used for merit increases and not across-the-board increases. The deadline for deans and directors to return information about faculty and staff pay increases is Wednesday, May 31. This will allow time for our budget office to process the information for the July 1 implementation.

Chris Jackson

Vice Chancellor, Business and Finance

Date Issued

Tuesday, May 23, 2017 - 12:00

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Legislature approves budget package, delivers bills to governor

The Nebraska Legislature on May 9 gave final approval to the state budget package for 2017-19, including funding for the University of Nebraska system.

Legislators approved the mainline budget bill by a 36-12 vote. The budget package has been delivered to Gov. Pete Ricketts for his consideration; he has until midnight May 15 to sign the bills in the package or return them with vetoes.

Under the budget approved by the Legislature, the university system’s state funding would be reduced by $13 million over the biennium. This follows the $13 million reduction the university took in the current fiscal year. When rising costs such as health care, collective bargaining contracts and compensation increases are factored in, the university would need to close a budget gap of about $46 million by summer 2019.

Hank Bounds, president of the four-institution university system, noted that the university system took steps last fall to limit spending across the campuses, including slowing hiring and other expenditures. Additionally, in January Bounds and the chancellors began a systemwide process for finding reductions in a range of operational areas.

Those proactive steps will help the university system manage cuts in state funding, although Bounds said there is no question that closing the budget gap will require difficult decisions.

“The Legislature has sent a strong message of support for the budget developed by Chairman Stinner and the Appropriations Committee,” Bounds said. “Senators have made difficult decisions to manage the current fiscal challenges and I thank them for their leadership. We will be a good partner to the state and we are prepared to manage the cuts that the Legislature approved. We have been candid about the fact that we will not be able to close the gap without making difficult reductions and increasing tuition.”

Bounds, the chancellors and their leadership teams, and members of the Board of Regents are continuing to work closely together on budget planning. The board will set the university’s 2017-18 operating budget, including tuition rates, when it meets in June.

“We are navigating a challenging period, but I am convinced that there have never been greater opportunities for the state, its public university and the private sector to work together to grow Nebraska’s economy. I’m excited about joining with our partners to build a strong future for this state,” Bounds said.

Date Issued

Wednesday, May 10, 2017 - 13:30

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Chancellor Green's Appropriations Committee testimony

On Feb. 27, 2017, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Ronnie Green entered the following testimony into the record of the Appropriations Committee of the Nebraska Legislature.

Good afternoon, Chairman Stinner and members of the Appropriations Committee. I’m Ronnie Green, chancellor of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I appreciate the opportunity today to share with you my perspective from the state’s only land-grant, comprehensive research university.

You’ve no doubt already given significant time and attention to solving Nebraska’s budget challenges, and heard many reasons for funding of worthy causes.

I would propose to you today that the university is in a unique position in these discussions because of our role as a primary growth driver for Nebraska.

As I travel around this incredible state, I’m humbled by the number of people I meet—business owners, teachers, health professionals, entrepreneurs—who studied, matured, and earned their credentials just a few blocks to our north, with fond memories of long nights cramming in Love Library or early morning exams in Burnett Hall…or agriculture leaders or lawyers who expanded their horizons and connections on our east campus…all of these people are vital contributors to Nebraska’s economy each and every day.

The impact of our university—and I say our university, because it belongs to all of us here, and all citizens of this great state—is profound. For example:

  • In 2016, Nebraska Extension educators—who are integral in carrying out our mission of service to the state—held workshops in all 93 counties, helping over 4,000 people learn more about agriculture, business and healthy families. These same educators are providing programming for the 140,000 kids—that’s getting close to 1 in 2 age-eligible kids– in our state who are in 4-H.

  • We recruit thousands of students and faculty to the state, and work hard to keep that talent here—in fact, 15 of the top 20 employer destinations for our graduates are Nebraska companies.

  • And I know you’ve heard this before, but it bears repeating, the direct annual economic impact from our university alone is approximately $2 billion.

As President Bounds has articulated, investing the state’s dollars in the University of Nebraska provides a significant return…a 6 to 1 return, in fact… on the investment that taxpayers are making in us. Rather than being a weight on taxpayers, we are an avenue for increased economic vitality, particularly if we are able to continue our present significant upward growth trajectory.

Beyond the economic impact and return, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln truly has a unique role here in Nebraska, one that has served our state well for generations, and one that is necessary for generations to come.

Unlike many states, Nebraska only has one land-grant university, and one comprehensive research intensive university, all encompassed at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Our role is broad, as it needs to be in our distinct role in this state. Our three-part mission of education, research and translational extension engagement has never been more vital…it was originally prescribed by the Morrill Act of 1862, and our purpose is to serve and be accessible to the people here, as their means of achieving higher education.

Certainly much has changed since then; our demographics…our technologies…and our achievement are beyond what anyone then could have imagined. What has not changed, and what I would propose has grown, is the leading role of the university in a progressive society.

Clearly, the needs were great 148 years ago when we were founded, even greater today, and I believe that our state’s demands for a university—a university such as one we are discussing today – will be even greater in the next few years and for future generations. Our population of future 18-year-olds is growing, and there is no question that affordable, accessible education is not just necessary for businesses and employers here, but indeed, necessary to maintain and progress in the way of life that we all have come to expect.

The needs of tomorrow are evidenced in many ways, but illustrated clearly by 1) recent and ongoing growth in our enrollment, and 2) our growth in research funding coming in to our state to support work that advances and helps our population. Let me tell you a bit about each of those areas.

First, there are more students turning to our university now than ever before. Since 2007, University of Nebraska-Lincoln enrollments have grown by 13 percent to a historical record enrollment of almost 26,000. We are serving Nebraska students and families, and we have also been very successful attracting top students to our state from beyond Nebraska. In 2007 the percent of non-resident undergraduate students was 22 percent and it now stands at about a third of all students. This growth means we can further expand in our role as a portal to our state for incoming talent, a place where students come to stay and contribute after graduation.

Even with this growth, we’ve been able to make do with very modest increases in costs for those students, amidst a smaller and smaller share of the state’s appropriations. How? Fiscal restraint and responsibility, creativity and hard work…all hallmarks of what you would expect from a Nebraska institution. I must say, however, further shrinkage of appropriations will clearly impact our ability to meet our growth expectations as we envision by 2025 and will likely reduce our ability to contribute to the state in the ways we have for generations.

We are extremely committed to continuing our accessibility…we must fulfil this promise, for the good of future generations of leaders and contributors to our state and our world. You no doubt know needs are changing here in Nebraska. We have become a more diverse state, and a more diverse university. We are serving an increasing number of first generation college students. The need for higher education is growing, not lessening, and that applies to research needs as well.

In research, we have brought in over 100 percent more funding than in the early part of last decade. Those research dollars, which are coming from federal sources, allow us to make advances that help people right here in Nebraska and have deep impact around the world. Our cutting-edge work ranges from renowned advances in brain, biology and behavior to cybersecurity and nanoscience to drought mitigation to early childhood education. Our work is in both STEM and non-STEM fields, and these are tangible areas of advancement make a difference in society, bring more notoriety to our state, and fuel our momentum as an institution of higher learning. Our goal is to double our research funding over the next decade, so that our faculty can accelerate their leadership in solving grand challenges that can be applied to everyday situations. We have world-recognized experts and resources, for example in production of higher yield crops using less resources, and the creation of drought and disease-tolerant crops. Our researchers’ efforts literally save lives…for example, our work in e coli research has led to improved detection methods, improved eradication techniques for meat-packing plants, and better food safety education for consumers and K-12 schools.

Much of our research is in collaboration with other public entities, including our sister universities within the University of Nebraska system, and many private ones. Nebraska Innovation Campus is home to a growing number of public-private partnerships, where already the annual economic impact is $140 million, and we expect that to continue to accelerate.

Growing our enrollment and research is not driven by simply the desire to be bigger. It’s driven by what Nebraska, and the world, needs. We are bold in our aspirations and working hard to accelerate our momentum because of demand. Certainly, we can be creative, even unconventional, in our approach to growth. But less and less state funding is likely to stymie the trajectory that is so promising.

Our move to the Big Ten is often thought of in athletics terms, but I can attest, it’s been even more impactful from an academic standpoint. The expectations and notoriety that come with being part of the Big Ten continues to add great value to the state of Nebraska, because our membership in this academic alliance is a gateway greater and more distinctive collaborations and research projects, and to bringing more talent to the state.

We are beginning to live up to the high bar set by Big Ten member institutions, but reductions in funding make that even more challenging.

And within our Athletics department, the game has literally changed since becoming part of the Big Ten. Competition is fierce. Even so, we are one of 10 universities in the nation in which the athletic program is not only self-sustaining, but employs the very unusual strategy in college athletics contributing funds to academic programming. Some may even wonder why our athletics program can’t do more to fund academic programs. The answer is like every place else at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, we are competing for talent, competing for dollars, and our marketplace is the Big Ten. To funnel further dollars away from Athletics compromises our ability to compete. Already, we work hard in making every fan dollar and donor dollar count, with an unwavering focus on the student athlete and with the highest integrity. Our model works, and disrupting it to address deeper academic needs would have long-term repercussions on and off the field.

I hope my remarks today have led to a deeper understanding of not only the challenges we face as a university, but more importantly, have led to excitement for our opportunities. I truly believe the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is poised for a significant breakthrough as one of our nation’s greatest universities. We’ve achieved this position through the brilliance and dedication of many who have come before me over the past centuries. Dampening that momentum and trajectory is a short-term remedy with long-term repercussions. We have much work ahead—work that the citizens of this state need us to do. Clearly, continuing our momentum and making further progress relies on decisions made now. Keeping talented young people in our state, preparing them for jobs here and lives of significant contributions to Nebraska depends on decisions made now. Bringing needed research to our state depends on decisions made now. I know you are deeply considering this testimony and others as you make thoughtful choices about the future of our state, and I very much appreciate your diligence.

Date Issued

Monday, February 27, 2017 - 17:00

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Chancellor's letter to the university regarding the budget

University of Nebraska-Lincoln community:

Good morning to you all.

Over the past few months, you’ve likely become aware of the state of Nebraska’s budget challenges. This morning President Bounds emailed the greater University of Nebraska system community with an update on our budget, and this topic was also discussed at our Board of Regents meeting this morning.

The challenges are real, and we are working diligently with our elected officials to mitigate adverse effects on the University of Nebraska, which contributes so much to our state and beyond as an economic engine. In fact, we know that the University of Nebraska-Lincoln alone contributes more than $2 billion annually to the state economy.

We have also been working internally with our collective University of Nebraska-Lincoln administrative leadership team to ensure we understand the landscape and the best options for not only managing with restricted resources, but for continuing to deliver on our mission in such an environment. I can assure you that our priority will be protecting the academic integrity and excellence of the university, and I recognize that much has been done here already to create an effective and efficient organization.

We remain steadfast and committed to our priority of growth as well, and we will leverage the unprecedented momentum and energy that is integral to our university community. I am as enthusiastic today about the future of Nebraska as I was on day one of my chancellorship. The passion, dedication and talent you devote to our land-grant mission of teaching, research and outreach at Nebraska’s flagship university runs deep, and I know that any challenges will not dampen that commitment or our ability to pursue our goals.

Thank you for all you do for the university. Because your understanding and knowledge of the situation will be imperative for our ongoing progress, I promise to keep you updated on an ongoing basis. On Tuesday, President Bounds and I will host open forums to discuss in person our budget situation and answer your questions. Details on the forums, along with additional budget information, is available here.

Our trajectory has never been more positive. I’m confident we will lead through this in a way that leverages our momentum and makes our instructional, research, and extension engagement programs stronger than ever.


Date Issued

Friday, January 27, 2017 - 10:00

Letter from system President Hank Bounds on the budget

Dear Colleagues:

I’m writing to update you on our budgetary challenges. In his State of the State address today, Governor Ricketts proposed a 2017-19 budget package that includes reductions for a number of state agencies, including the University of Nebraska. Under the Governor’s proposal, our state funding would be reduced by $12 million next year, with half of that amount restored in the second year.

Let me explain what that would mean for us. The proposed cuts must be viewed in conjunction with unavoidable cost increases that we will face in the next biennium. Salary and health insurance increases alone will grow our costs by more than $40 million over the next two years.

The bottom line: The Governor’s proposed cuts, combined with rising expenses, mean the University of Nebraska would have a budget gap north of $50 million by summer 2019.

These numbers are not final. The Governor’s proposal now moves to the Appropriations Committee and the full Legislature for consideration. I will do everything I can in the months ahead to make the case that an investment in the University of Nebraska is an investment in the state’s economic vitality and quality of life. I will remind them that the state’s partnership with its public university has helped ensure affordable excellence for nearly 150 years.

And I will remind them that the consequences of any cut are exacerbated by the funding trends of the past several decades, in which the university’s state appropriations have grown at a far smaller rate than other agencies’ and our share of the overall state budget pie has shrunk significantly. Today we spend less per full-time student than we did at the turn of the century, even as our enrollment and research enterprise have grown.

Nonetheless, it has been clear for some time that the state’s fiscal uncertainties would impact us to some degree. I have pledged to the Governor and members of the Legislature that the university will be a partner in navigating this downturn. There is no question that we have difficult choices ahead.

I am working with the chancellors to finalize a university-wide approach for managing budget cuts and will share more with you soon. I will be candid. The scale of the budgetary challenges ahead is well beyond what we could manage with a hiring freeze, travel restrictions or efficiencies alone. Slowing our spending has been a prudent initial step. But we can only go so long without, for example, hiring enough cancer doctors to meet the needs of patients at our medical center. And while we will look for every opportunity to do business even more effectively, budget cuts of the past have forced us to become a lean institution already. If there was low-hanging fruit before, it’s gone.

That leaves us with two options: cuts and revenue enhancement. The extent to which we will rely on each depends on the budget that state leaders ultimately approve. But tuition, jobs and university services are certain to be impacted. This process will affect real people, with real families and livelihoods.

We have already engaged the leadership teams on each campus in discussions on budget reductions. Those conversations will continue and we will involve faculty, staff and students every step of the way. While I don’t yet have all the answers, I do want to hear from you directly. The week of January 30, I will join each chancellor for an on-campus open forum where we will be able to have an in-person dialogue about our budget planning. The dates of the budget forums are as follows, with more details to come:

UNMC open forum: Monday, January 30, at 8 a.m.

UNL open forums: Tuesday, January 31, at 8 a.m. (staff) and 9:15 a.m. (faculty)

UNK open forum: Wednesday, February 1, at 2 p.m.

UNO open forum: Friday, February 3, at 1:30 p.m.

Because of your good work, the University of Nebraska is in a strong position today. We will emerge from this downturn a strong institution. Getting there will not be easy. I am hopeful that together with all of you, our partners at the Capitol, and the many university friends and alumni across this state, we will identify responsible solutions that are in the best interests of our university and the people of Nebraska. I will continue to provide frequent updates and invite you to visit our website here for information on our budget planning.

I hope to see you on campus soon. Thank you for all that you do for the University of Nebraska.


Hank M. Bounds, Ph.D. President, University of Nebraska system

Date Issued

Thursday, January 12, 2017 - 12:00

Letter from system President Hank Bounds on the budget

November 7, 2016

Dear Colleagues,

Recently I wrote to you about our budget planning and the fiscal challenges facing the state of Nebraska. Legislators will begin developing a state budget package for 2017-18 and 2018-19, including funding for the University of Nebraska, when they convene in January.

You may have seen recent news reports about the state’s decreased revenue projections and the likelihood that state agencies will have their appropriations reduced in the current fiscal year and in the next biennium. I want to be very candid with you. While we are continuing to analyze the numbers as they evolve, there is no question that we have difficult decisions ahead.

Cuts to our state funding would almost certainly impact people, programs and affordability across our campuses. When you factor in unavoidable cost increases that we will have to manage in the next biennium, like health insurance and utilities, it is clear that we cannot wait to begin exercising great fiscal restraint.

I have told the Governor and members of the Legislature that while we expect to be treated fairly and equitably, we will be a partner in navigating this downturn — as we have been historically. Following discussions with your chancellors, I have taken the following steps:

A university-wide hiring freeze for all positions that are funded in any part by state-aided dollars is in effect immediately. This includes positions for which searches are currently being conducted. Exemptions will be granted for positions that the respective chancellor and I agree are absolutely critical to our mission.

Chancellors, vice presidents and the executive directors of our university-wide institutes have been directed to move forward only on travel and purchasing that they deem absolutely necessary.

Chancellors are responsible for engaging their leadership teams to make sure they have a process in place for implementing budget cuts. Reduction processes, of course, must take into account our commitment to shared governance, in which we would seek faculty, staff and student input before making cuts.

I do not expect that reducing hiring and travel alone will solve the budget challenges ahead. Two facts are clear as we consider our options. One, state appropriations and tuition are the primary sources of revenue that fund our day-to-day operations. Historically, when one goes down, the other goes up. We have been fortunate that the state has invested in its university at a level that has allowed us to keep costs within reach for students and families, and we hope that will continue.

And two, like any university, we are a people-driven enterprise. More than 80 percent of our spending goes toward salaries and benefits. Any major change in our budget, therefore, necessarily impacts people and the programs in which they serve.

As we navigate this challenge, our first priority will be protecting the academic enterprise of the University of Nebraska. We will not let a temporary economic downturn damage our long-term quality, momentum and competitiveness. Rather, my goal is to use this period as an opportunity to be even more strategic and more efficient in the ways we serve students, the workforce and our state. Together with our partners at the Capitol, stakeholders across the state, and all of you, I am confident that we can identify responsible solutions that preserve the accessibility, quality and impact that Nebraskans have expected from their university for nearly 150 years.

I will continue to communicate with you regarding the budget and our plans going forward. Thank you, as always, for all that you do for the University of Nebraska.


Hank M. Bounds, Ph.D. President, University of Nebraska system

Date Issued

Monday, November 7, 2016 - 14:45

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