Today I joined Governor Heineman and Nebraska State College System Chancellor Stan Carpenter to announce a proposed “affordability compact” for Nebraska. A central goal of the University of Nebraska is to provide affordable access to a high quality education. I believe this initiative is an important step in accomplishing both elements of that goal: encouraging critical state investment in the university while at the same time addressing the concerns of tuition-paying Nebraska students and their families.
Under our agreement, Governor Heineman’s budget recommendation will include a significant increase in state appropriations to the university and state colleges over the upcoming biennium. (The increase in state general funds for the university would be an average of 4.2 percent per year.) In return, if the Legislature approves the Governor’s funding recommendation, the Board of Regents will freeze tuition at current levels for Nebraska students for the next two years. All University of Nebraska resident students – undergraduate and graduate, on-campus and online – would see no increase in tuition for 2013-14 or 2014-15. Based on average tuition increases over the past decade, that would represent a savings of nearly $1,000 for a full-time undergraduate student for the next two years.
As you know, state appropriations are critical to the success of public universities such as the University of Nebraska. We depend on a stable base of state support to help fund our operations—including investments in key priorities such as competitive salaries and benefits for our employees and strong academic programs—as well as to help ensure affordability by maintaining moderate tuition levels. But state appropriations to the university have been essentially flat for five straight years – understandable, given the economy and fiscal condition in the country and our state, but nonetheless not a sustainable model if we are to remain both competitive and affordable. That’s why our proposed compact is an important step at this time, representing a renewed commitment to state investment in the university. I am grateful to Governor Heineman for his support of public higher education and his recognition of the vital role it plays in Nebraska, and I look forward to discussing the proposed compact with policymakers and others when the Legislature convenes this week.
There has never been a more important time for the Governor and the Legislature to invest in higher education. In just a few short years, two-thirds of all jobs in Nebraska will require education beyond high school. If Nebraska is to be competitive, we must produce many more college graduates who are able to meet the needs of the 21st-century workforce. If passed, the compact will provide the first meaningful increase in general fund support for the university in a number of years and it will help ensure that a college education is in reach for Nebraskans.
I hope you agree that the proposed compact on state funding and tuition is a very positive step for the university and the state. I wish you the best for 2013 and thank you for all that you do for the University of Nebraska.
James B. Milliken