Affordability, strategic investments highlight proposed 2014-15 budget

A second straight freeze on resident tuition and investments in priority initiatives that benefit the state highlight the University of Nebraska’s proposed 2014-15 operating budget, announced today by Interim President James Linder. The Board of Regents will consider the budget at its May 30 meeting.

Linder said the recommended budget reflects the university’s highest priority: affordable excellence. Proposed strategic investments in cross-campus, multidisciplinary initiatives focusing on early childhood education, nursing and allied health, engineering and information sciences, and rural development would position the university to attract talent and expand education and research efforts in areas important to Nebraska. Meanwhile, the freeze on resident tuition, combined with a modest increase for nonresidents, ensures that NU campuses will continue to be a great value compared to similar institutions.

“The University of Nebraska is in a strong position to advance our work in areas that matter to Nebraskans and people around the world. With additional targeted investments, we would do even more to leverage the resources of our four campuses for the benefit of the state,” Linder said. “We’re able to make these investments because of increased support from the state. I continue to be grateful to the Governor and members of the Legislature for their support of affordable, quality higher education that serves the people of Nebraska.”

Among the strategic investments in the proposed 2014-15 budget:

  • Nearly $1.3 million to support the work of the Buffett Early Childhood Institute, a university-wide institute dedicated to creating a more level playing field for at-risk children and families.
  • $800,000 to support faculty hiring within 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. A strategic plan for PKI presented to the Board earlier this year calls for additional faculty and other growth measures to better meet workforce needs in Omaha and Nebraska.
  • $500,000 for personnel needs for 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 Kearney campus. Groundbreaking for the facility, which will create space for hundreds more Kearney-based nursing and allied health professions students, took place last month. The additional investment would support faculty hiring to meet increased student demands. The nursing and allied health expansion in Kearney was part of the university’s Building a Healthier Nebraska initiative, which was supported by the Governor and Legislature in 2012.
  • $500,000 to support personnel and programmatic needs of 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.
  • $2.5 million toward the university’s Programs of Excellence, which are high-priority academic areas across the four campuses. Programs of Excellence funds are awarded on a competitive basis to enhance the success and reputation of outstanding programs.
  • A 3 percent increase in the salary pool for faculty and staff outside the collective bargaining units at UNO and UNK. Per Board policy, the funds would be distributed on the basis of merit and performance.

The freeze on resident tuition is the second phase of a two-year “affordability compact” reached last year between the university and state. Through the compact, the university committed to freeze tuition for all Nebraska students for 2013-14 and 2014-15 if the state would renew its investment in higher education after five years of essentially flat funding for operations. The Legislature and Governor approved a 4 percent annual increase in state appropriations for NU for the current biennium. Accordingly, tuition for all Nebraska students is being frozen for two years. The average undergraduate will save about $1,000 total.

The freeze guarantees that tuition rates on each NU campus will remain well below peer averages. Resident tuition and fees are currently 28 percent below the peer average for UNL, 27 percent below for UNO and 22 percent below for UNK. The university’s nonresident tuition rates also are well below the peer averages. More than half of all University of Nebraska undergraduates receive grant aid that they do not have to pay back, and about 1 in 5 Nebraska undergraduates attending the university is currently eligible for Collegebound Nebraska, which promises full tuition assistance for qualifying students.

Under the proposed budget, the university faces about $2.2 million in reallocations for 2014-15. That comes on top of $78 million the university has reallocated since 2000.

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