Board of Regents
James B. Milliken
Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska
Report from the March 2013 meeting of the University of Nebraska Board of Regents.
University of Nebraska research is adding value to the state
University of Nebraska faculty are conducting groundbreaking research that is creating jobs and helping individuals in Nebraska and beyond live healthier, more productive lives, the Board of Regents learned during a research update at its March 2013 meeting.
NU expenditures of federal research awards were nearly $193 million in fiscal year 2012, up from $178 million in 2010, the Board learned. Total research expenditures, including those from non-federal sources, are nearly $300 million, more than double what they were in 2000.
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln and University of Nebraska Medical Center are both exceeding their Board metric for research growth, which is to grow federal research expenditures by 20 percent more than the weighted total federal appropriations per year on a three-year rolling average. UNL’s federal research expenditures are now at almost $101 million; UNMC’s are at $84 million.
“The significant investments that we make in research in water, energy, early childhood, public health, engineering, cancer, national security and other fields create new knowledge, new jobs and new economic vitality for our state,” NU President James B. Milliken said. “This research has greatly improved the quality of life in Nebraska and has the potential, literally, to change the world.”
UNL’s goal is to increase research expenditures to $300 million by 2018, with at least half of that total coming from federal agencies. The campus also aims to increase the number of faculty working with private-sector partners to translate research into new innovations and jobs, Prem Paul, UNL vice chancellor for research and economic development, told regents.
Major UNL research initiatives include those in:
Nebraska Innovation Campus also is leveraging university research for greater benefit, Paul said. ConAgra Foods recently was announced as the first private collaborator at Innovation Campus, a development that will provide critical momentum to the initiative and expand research opportunities for faculty and students.
However, Paul noted that federal budget uncertainty creates a significant challenge for the university. Competition for top talent also is increasingly intense, he said, meaning UNL must double down on its commitment to exploring new research partnerships, developing state-of-the-art infrastructure, and attracting and retaining world-class faculty.
UNMC’s broad research goals include growing funding to $200 million, developing globally recognized programs and improving the health of Nebraskans, said vice chancellor for research Jennifer Larsen. The campus is focusing on a number of strategic strengths, including cancer, neuroscience, heart disease, infectious diseases, transplantation, rural health and health disparities, genetics, drug discovery and development, and biotechnology.
For example, UNMC’s Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health is focused on improving the quality of life for Nebraskans and others. Directed by Risto Rautiainen, an associate professor in the College of Public Health, the center is addressing challenges that impact farmers and ranchers across the state, including hearing loss, agricultural injuries, asthma and sleep deprivation.
Like UNL, UNMC is concerned about the impact that sequestration will have on research funding, Larsen said. The university will continue to closely monitor budget developments at the federal level.
During its March meeting, the Board of Regents approved the program statement and budget for a new Health Sciences Education Building at the University of Nebraska at Kearney – clearing the way for a project that will provide expanded capacity for nursing and allied health education in rural Nebraska.
“The Board of Regents’ approval of this complex will change UNK forever,” Chancellor Doug Kristensen said. “We are excited about the new opportunities for our students.”
The new $19 million facility will allow the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s College of Nursing to expand its Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program and its graduate program for nurse practitioners. Additionally, the UNMC School of Allied Health Professions will bring to Kearney new campus programs for physician assistants, physical therapists, clinical laboratory scientists, radiographers and diagnostic medical sonographers. These programs will help address the significant shortage of nurses and allied health workers in Nebraska – a shortage that disproportionately affects rural Nebraska.
Construction is set to start in January 2014, with completion scheduled for June 2015. The 30,000-square-foot building – to be constructed in a manner that will enable future expansion – will include a clinical simulation laboratory, anatomy and physiology labs, and technology for distance education.
The Health Sciences Education Building is one component of the university’s Building a Healthier Nebraska initiative. The Legislature in 2012 allocated $15 million to support the facility; the remaining $4 million will come from UNK, including a recently announced $1 million gift from Good Samaritan Hospital and Catholic Health Initiatives.
“We’re very grateful to the Governor and the Legislature for this important allocation of funds that will make it possible to expand the College of Nursing division at UNK,” said Juliann Sebastian, dean of the UNMC College of Nursing. “It will allow us to better meet the shortage of direct care and advanced practice nurses with a special focus on interprofessional primary care.”
Charles Bicak, UNK senior vice chancellor for academic and student affairs, said: “This complex and the health programs that will be delivered are the result of the wonderful partnership between UNK and UNMC. This collaboration leverages the strengths of both institutions. In turn, the beneficiaries are the citizens of central and western Nebraska, and points beyond.”
Board approves UNO arena
The new university/community arena at the University of Nebraska at Omaha is moving forward thanks to Board of Regents approval of the program statement and budget for the facility during its March meeting.
The arena will include 7,000 to 7,500 seats and two sheets of ice and will be the home for the UNO hockey, men’s and women’s basketball, and volleyball programs – not only providing an on-campus home for UNO athletics but also enhancing the student experience and building UNO’s brand, helping the campus to achieve its ambitious enrollment goals. The university/community facility also will provide space for Omaha community events such as graduation ceremonies, recreational activities and other gatherings.
“The arena is a game-changer for UNO – enhancing not only Maverick Athletics and our move to Division I, but also recruitment, student life and as a home for university special events,” said Chancellor John Christensen. “As importantly, this facility will provide a wide range of opportunities for community use, as a similarly sized replacement for the Civic Auditorium, in addition to serving as a wonderful complement to Aksarben Village and midtown redevelopment.”
In a presentation to the Board, Athletic Director Trev Alberts said the hockey program has a high need for a home on campus. The team currently plays at the CenturyLink Center in downtown Omaha, but regularly has to practice at the Civic – a significant burden for student-athletes.
“Our goal is to deliver a vibrant, relevant athletic department that contributes to the overall advancement of the university in a fiscally responsible way,” Alberts said. “The Board’s decision [to approve the arena] ensures the long-term viability of our department. The positive impact this project will have on our student-athletes and coaches is hard to overstate.”The arena will be located near 64th and Center streets. It will cost $76.3 million, with $35 million coming from private donations, $35 million from NU Facilities Corp. financing and $6.3 million from the City of Omaha in the form of infrastructure.
NU managing its resources efficiently
Adjusted for the Higher Education Price Index, state and tuition dollars per full-time equivalent student at the University of Nebraska have declined about 2.5 percent since 2000, the Board of Regents learned during a March budget update – evidence that inflation and enrollment growth are eroding the “purchasing power” of state appropriations.
Additionally, the number of FTE employees funded by tax and tuition dollars has declined 1 percent in the same time period, to about 7,700. The decline has come even as NU’s enrollment has grown from 45,000 to 50,000 and research expenditures have more than doubled, to nearly $300 million.
Faculty salaries at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and University of Nebraska Medical Center continue to lag behind peer averages. UNL faculty salaries are about 5 percent behind the peers, and UNMC faculty salaries are 7 percent behind. Across the university, staff salaries are about 8 percent behind the market average.
For 2014 and 2015, the university is tentatively planning a 3 percent increase in the salary pool for employees not covered by collective bargaining agreements. Salary increases are awarded on the basis of merit and competitiveness.
NU has made more than $75 million in budget reallocations since 2000. Reallocations and cost efficiencies – combined with moderate, predictable tuition increases – have allowed the university to meet its financial obligations. For the upcoming biennium, the university is requesting an increase in state support so it can invest in priorities while also keeping education affordable. The Legislature’s Appropriations Committee is tentatively recommending funding increases of 4 percent per year for 2013-15; at that level of state support, the university would freeze tuition for Nebraska students for the next two years.
During its March meeting, the Board of Regents:
Strategic Framework that lays out specific, measurable goals in key areas such as affordability, enrollment, graduation rates, research, engagement with the citizens of Nebraska, and cost-effectiveness.
The university regularly reports its progress in each of these areas to the Board; the detailed metrics and the university’s updated progress reports are available.