Board of Regents
James B. Milliken
Report from the January 2013 meeting of the University of Nebraska Board of Regents.
Proposed compact would sustain affordable, quality public higher education in Nebraska
The proposed affordability compact between the state and University of Nebraska would help ensure affordable, quality public higher education for the people of Nebraska, according to a briefing to the Board of Regents during its January meeting.
Under the compact, Governor Heineman’s biennial budget recommendation includes an increase in state appropriations to the university that would average 4.2 percent per year of the biennium. That’s less than what is being proposed for the state budget overall (4.9 percent average increase) as well as Medicaid (10.3 percent), K-12 (4.8 percent) and the state colleges (4.5 percent). The increases to NU, which would follow five years of essentially flat state funding, would represent a renewed commitment to state investment in public higher education.
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, graduate and professional; on-campus and online – would see no increase in tuition for 2013-14 or 2014-15. For a typical full-time undergraduate, this would represent a savings of nearly $1,000 over the next two years, based on average tuition increases over the past decade.
NU President James B. Milliken noted that the affordability compact is being proposed at a time when the university has had to implement significant budget reallocations in order to remain affordable while also meeting its financial obligations. Additionally, state appropriations per full-time equivalent student declined more than 20 percent from 2000 to 2011, even as enrollment grew from 45,000 to 50,000 and the university’s research enterprise grew from $100 million to $300 million.
“(The compact) also comes at a time when an investment in educational attainment for the people of Nebraska is more important than it has ever been,” Milliken said. “We know that the number of jobs in the next few years that require education beyond high school will be greater than it’s ever been.
“We have a gap between the number of Nebraskans who are educated at a level to take advantage of those 21st-century jobs, and the jobs that will be there. We have to be a part of filling that gap. We have to be a part of increasing the level of educational attainment in the state, and I think this proposal helps us accomplish that goal.”
Even with the Governor’s funding recommendations included, state appropriations to NU would grow at a slower rate than appropriations to other agencies and slower than the total state budget.
The university also represents a shrinking share of the state’s budget. In 1985, NU was 21 percent of the state’s budget. Under the Governor’s recommendation, in 2015 the university would be 13.5 percent of the state budget.
Six-year graduation rates at the University of Nebraska at Kearney and University of Nebraska at Omaha continue to exceed the averages of the campuses’ peers, while the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s graduation rate climbed again and has narrowed the gap with its peers, the Board of Regents learned.
UNK’s six-year graduation rate improved to 60.6 percent, compared to the peer average of 51.2 percent. Campus efforts to improve student success include the recent completion of a strategic plan for retention and strengthened advising for freshmen, Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs Charlie Bicak told the Board.
UNO’s graduation rate is 43 percent, a slight decrease from last year but still ahead of the peer average of 42.6 percent. UNO has invested in learning communities that increase student success, including the Thompson, Goodrich, Davis, Young and Avenue Scholars learning communities, through which students live and study together. Dan Shipp, associate vice chancellor for student affairs, said campus strategies to improve retention and graduation include more targeted intervention for students with financial, academic, social or personal struggles, and increased encouragement and incentives for faculty and staff involvement in student success.
UNL’s six-year graduation rate improved to 66.7 percent, narrowing the gap between UNL and its peers to just 3.3 percent. UNL’s strategies for increasing its graduation rate include 10 new first-year learning communities for students interested in a range of topics, including architecture, writing, entrepreneurship, engineering and journalism; new services for students who have not declared a major; and an “early warning system” opening Feb. 4 that will identify students in distress early and provide support to help them get back on track.
Amy Goodburn, associate vice chancellor in the Office of Academic Affairs, noted that 53 percent of entering freshmen at UNL graduated in the top quartile of their high school class, compared to a peer average of 66 percent.
NU health plan in strong shape
The University of Nebraska’s health insurance plan is in excellent shape, enjoying a positive fund balance and providing employees and their families with competitive benefits at a reasonable cost, according to a report to the Board of Regents.
Approximately 23,000 individuals are covered by the university’s self-insured health plan. Total costs for the university’s plan are about $140 million.
David Lechner, senior vice president for business and finance, said the university plans to take advantage of the positive balance of its health trust by implementing one-time measures related to health care to benefit employees, such as premium “holidays” or wellness incentives.
The Board also learned that NU benefits have been extended to 71 new individuals this year under the “employee plus one” plan that provides benefits to employees’ same-sex and opposite-sex partners. The plan took effect Jan. 1.
Of the newly covered individuals, 65 are participating in the university’s health insurance plan. The other six elected other benefits besides health insurance.
Approved by the Board last June, the “employee plus one” plan extends eligibility for participation in the university’s benefits program to “adult designees” who share an employee’s household and with whom the employee is financially interdependent, as well as their dependent children.
Among the individuals newly receiving health coverage under “employee plus one,” 40 are opposite-sex partners of employees, while 25 are same-sex partners – roughly in line with national trends.
The “employee plus one” plan was designed to make the University of Nebraska’s benefits program more equitable and competitive. All other Big Ten institutions offer partner benefits, as do most of the highly ranked research universities across the country. Partner benefits are a strong trend in the private sector as well, including among many leading companies in Nebraska.
The cost of providing partner benefits at NU this year will be approximately $500,000, well below the university’s original estimate.
Regents approve UNL Center for Brain, Biology & Behavior
The Board of Regents has approved UNL’s Center for Brain, Biology and Behavior (CB3), an interdisciplinary, inter-campus research center that represents an innovative collaboration between academic research and athletics. CB3 will be located later this year in half of a 50,000-square-foot research area in the East Stadium addition to Memorial Stadium.
CB3 will house state-of-the-art equipment, enabling faculty and students from a range of disciplines to conduct research related to behavior and performance, including the study of concussions. While based at UNL, CB3 will also engage faculty from the University of Nebraska Medical Center and University of Nebraska at Omaha.
“This center is at the heart of a unique partnership between our prestigious academic and athletic programs,” said Prem Paul, UNL vice chancellor for research and economic development. “No place else in the country will have the combination of cutting-edge equipment, research leadership and strong ties with athletics.”
Athletics Director Shawn Eichorst said, “The Center for Brain, Biology and Behavior will help to position the University of Nebraska and its athletics program as a national leader in this area of research. We are grateful to Coach Tom Osborne for his foresight to collaborate with academics in this exciting endeavor.”
Construction of new UNMC College of Pharmacy building approved
The Board of Regents has approved the program statement and budget for construction of a new College of Pharmacy and Center for Drug Discovery building at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
Rendering of the new UNMC College of Pharmacy building.
Construction on the $35 million, privately funded project is expected to begin in February 2014, with completion scheduled for July 2015. The 85,000-square-foot building will replace and expand the current outdated College of Pharmacy, providing laboratory and research space designed to accommodate the specific technical needs of 21st-century pharmaceutical research in drug discovery and development, drug delivery, and clinical and translational research.
“Today the College of Pharmacy is recognized as one of the outstanding institutions for pharmacy education and research, and our graduates are influencing the quality of health care in communities across Nebraska and the U.S.,” said UNMC Chancellor Harold Maurer. “This state-of-the-art facility will allow our medical center to take yet another step toward achieving world-class status.”
During its January meeting, the Board of Regents: