06/19/2015 President’s Op-Ed: NU budget prioritizes affordability for students and families

June 19, 2015

By Hank Bounds
President, University of Nebraska

The first priority of the University of Nebraska is to make sure students and families in our state have access to affordable, quality higher education.

Our goal has never been more important. While we can’t predict what the jobs of the future will be, we do know virtually all of them will require education beyond high school. That means if we are to successfully grow Nebraska’s economy, we need to expand access to our universities and colleges to many more students.

The University of Nebraska budget approved recently by the Board of Regents achieves our goals for both affordability and quality, thanks in large part to the investment from the state provided by Gov. Pete Ricketts, Sen. Heath Mello and his colleagues on the Appropriations Committee, and members of the Legislature. I’m grateful for their support, which continues a tradition of partnership between the university and state based on shared goals for education and economic growth.

Most important, our budget ensures the University of Nebraska will remain affordable. Our plan includes two years of tuition rates – a 1.75 percent tuition increase for 2015-16 and a 2.5 percent increase for 2016-17 – in order to help students and families better plan for the costs of college. The increases are the lowest in nearly three decades following a two-year tuition freeze for Nebraskans.

As a parent myself, I know any increase in tuition has an impact on students. We take these decisions seriously. The increases for the next two years amount to about $3.50 more per credit hour for Nebraska undergraduates in 2015-16 and an additional $5 per credit hour for 2016-17. These moderate increases will maintain our affordability while creating revenue to invest in priorities like competitive salaries, financial aid and quality academic programs – all things our students expect us to provide.

Even with the tuition increases, a University of Nebraska education is a tremendous value. Resident tuition and fees on our campuses are at least 25 percent below the peer averages. And, most students do not pay the “sticker price;” well over half of our undergraduates receive aid that they do not have to pay back. We will increase our investments in need-based financial aid the next two years at the same rates as tuition so net tuition costs for students with the greatest need do not go up.

Our budget also includes strategic investments in university faculty and staff and programs to strengthen Nebraska’s economy. Targeted economic development investments supported by the Governor and Legislature will expand educational opportunities for students, meet workforce needs and create jobs. The state’s investments in these initiatives – the Health Science Education Complex at UNK, a biomedical technology institute led by UNMC and UNO, a new global trade and finance institute at UNL named in honor of alumnus and former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Clayton Yeutter, and a new simulated learning center at UNMC – will yield long-term returns. Additionally, the state’s support for the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture will allow us to make important investments in talent and build on the college’s momentum.

Finally, our budget plan will require us to be cost-effective and make cuts – an estimated $8 million over the next two years. Cuts are never easy, but like any Nebraska family or business, we have a responsibility to manage our resources effectively. We will continue to look for ways to operate more efficiently.

The university’s budget plan puts students and families first, ensuring that we will continue to provide an excellent education at a competitive cost. I thank the Governor, members of the Legislature, our faculty and staff, students and friends of the university for helping us maintain our momentum in serving Nebraskans.

Date Recipient
06/05/2015 President's U-Wide Letter: University of Nebraska budget proposal

June 5, 2015

Dear Colleagues,

I am writing to update you on the university’s budget planning. As you may know, one important piece of our budget – state funding – was finalized recently when the Governor approved a state budget package for 2015-17 that includes critical support for our core operations as well as economic development and other initiatives across our campuses. I am grateful to the Governor and Legislature for their investment in the university, which will allow us to maintain affordability and build on the momentum we have sustained thanks to your good work.

With our state appropriations known, we are ready to bring a proposal to the Board of Regents that will fill in other key pieces of our budget. The Board will consider our budget plan – including an operating budget for 2015-16 and tuition rates for both 2015-16 and 2016-17 to help students and families better plan for the costs of college – at its meeting next Friday.

Our plan advances key goals of the University of Nebraska. It includes meaningful investments in salaries, an area where we know we have work to do to meet the Board’s goal of providing competitive compensation in order to recruit and retain talented employees. It includes targeted state support for exciting economic competitiveness initiatives. Most importantly, it ensures that the University of Nebraska will continue to be an excellent value, keeping college within reach for students and families who want to take advantage of the promises of higher education.

The budget proposal requires cuts, as has been the case almost every year in recent memory because of our commitment to keeping tuition increases low while also investing in priorities. Cuts are always difficult, but I have confidence in the chancellors’ ability to manage these reductions in ways that will preserve the quality of the university. Going forward, we will continue to look for ways to be even more efficient with our limited resources.

Let me say a few words about the main components of our proposed plan:

  • We are recommending a 3 percent increase in our salary pool. We compete globally for faculty and staff, and the marketplace has never been more competitive. While we will not close all the salary gaps that exist between us and our peers, we believe we have the potential to make meaningful progress with a 3 percent increase. In accordance with the Board’s Strategic Framework, raises will be awarded on the basis of merit.

  • We are proposing tuition increases of 1.75 percent in 2015-16 and 2.5 percent in 2016-17 – the smallest increases in nearly three decades following back-to-back tuition freezes for Nebraska students. Under the proposed tuition rates, most resident undergraduates would pay, on average, about $3.50 more per credit hour next year and an additional $5 per credit hour in 2016-17. I know any increase in tuition has an impact on students and families. But even with these moderate increases, our costs would remain well below our peer averages. Tuition and fees on our campuses are currently at least 25% below the peers and on average our students graduate with less debt than students at similar institutions. We also plan to increase need-based financial aid at the same rate as tuition, so that net tuition costs do not go up for students with the greatest need.

  • Thanks to targeted support approved by the Governor and Legislature, we will be able to invest in initiatives that will grow Nebraska’s economy and expand educational opportunities. The state’s investments will support staffing and operations and maintenance at the Health Science Education Complex, which will house expanded nursing and allied health programs on the UNK campus; our new biomedical technology institute jointly led by UNMC and UNO; expanded activities at the Nebraska Business Development Center; a proposed new institute for international trade and finance at UNL named in honor of former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and alumnus Clayton Yeutter; and construction and operations of the recently approved simulated learning center at UNMC, which could transform the way medical education is delivered.

  • Thanks to an increased investment from the state, the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture will be able to bring its faculty salaries closer to market averages, hire a veterinarian, and build on its momentum in serving Nebraska agriculture.

We will never have the resources to do everything we want to do. But I believe our proposed budget is a strategic and responsible plan that serves the needs of students and families, improves our competitive position in the marketplace for talent, advances key initiatives that will grow our state’s economy, and demonstrates accountability to those who entrust their resources to us. It is a plan that is possible because of our continued partnership with the state, and because of your commitment to excellence in teaching, research and service. Your hard work has positioned us well for the future.

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

Hank Bounds
President, University of Nebraska

05/20/2015 STATEMENT: 2015-17 budget package signed by Governor Ricketts

“The budget package signed today by Governor Ricketts represents an important investment in affordable, high-quality education at the University of Nebraska. I am grateful to the Governor for his support and look forward to many more years of working together to achieve our shared goals for education and economic development. I also want to thank Chairman Mello, his colleagues on the Appropriations Committee, and members of the Legislature for their hard work and recognition of the important role the university plays in the state’s success.

“The support the Legislature and Governor have provided to the university will allow us to meet some of our most important objectives. One, keep tuition affordable for students and families. Two, fund the core operations of the university, including investments in talent. And three, advance initiatives – including the Health Science Education Complex in Kearney and UNMC-UNO biomedical technology institute – that will meet workforce needs and expand educational opportunities. Additionally, the support for the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture will allow it to build on its momentum in serving Nebraska agriculture.

“Finally, the state’s investment in the UNMC Global Center for Advanced Interprofessional Learning is a vital jump-start for this initiative which has the potential to transform the way medical education is delivered in our state. I am grateful to policymakers for their vote of confidence.”

05/21/2015 President’s Op-Ed: Celebrating the success and potential of the Class of 2015

May 21, 2015

By Hank Bounds
President, University of Nebraska

Recently I had the opportunity to participate in commencement ceremonies on each of the University of Nebraska’s campuses. To the 6,500 students with new credentials from the University of Nebraska at Kearney, University of Nebraska Medical Center, University of Nebraska at Omaha, University of Nebraska-Lincoln or Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture; to their family members, friends and mentors who helped them along the way; and to the thousands of others graduating from state, community and private colleges this spring: Congratulations on all that you’ve accomplished. You should be proud of the hard work you’ve put in to get to this point.

For me there is no time quite like commencement. Watching our students walk across that stage, seeing the look of pride on their faces, hearing the cheers of their supporters, knowing they’re about to begin a new chapter of their lives – these are some of the greatest joys of my job. Celebrating these moments with students is an inspiring reminder of why I’ve chosen to spend my career in education.

I know from firsthand experience the transformative effect a college degree can have on a person’s life. Growing up, I never imagined I would someday address the Class of 2015 as president of one of America’s great universities. But higher education opened doors for me that I wouldn’t have thought possible. I believe it will do the same for students earning their degrees today.

Each of this year’s graduates has a unique story about how they achieved this milestone.

Some are the first in their families to finish college – and they are due a special congratulations. I understand the unique challenges faced by first-generation students and the University of Nebraska is working hard to make sure many more of them have the resources they need to be successful.

Other graduates were new to Nebraska when they began their college careers – indeed, our student body represents all 50 states and more than 130 countries – and we hope they will consider staying here to begin careers or raise families.

Many students had the chance to participate in internships, study abroad, service learning or extracurricular activities that enriched their educational experience and helped prepare them for life and work.

I hope all of the graduates were able to find their passion, be it agriculture, teaching, health care, fine arts, entrepreneurship, science, math or something else.

Most of all, I hope each of them developed the skills that create a foundation for success no matter what path they choose next: a curiosity about the world around them; the ability to think critically; a sense of humility and compassion for others. And I hope they have learned to dream big. That is one of the greatest gifts a University of Nebraska education provides to our students: the opportunity to dream big.

Congratulations again to the Class of 2015. I am proud of each of you. I can’t wait to see what you accomplish next.

05/12/2015 President's U-Wide Letter: Honoring excellence in teaching, research and service

May 12, 2015

Dear Colleagues,

Over the past few weeks I’ve had the honor of recognizing six outstanding University of Nebraska faculty members and one academic department for achievements in teaching, research and service. Presenting the university’s most prestigious faculty and departmental awards – the Outstanding Research and Creative Activity Award, Outstanding Teaching and Instructional Creativity Award, Innovation, Development and Engagement Award, and the University-wide Departmental Teaching Award – has been one of the highlights of my presidency so far. Faculty truly are among the greatest assets of any leading university, and at the University of Nebraska we are lucky to be home to some of the very best.

This year’s winners are a diverse group – representing medicine, agriculture, science and other disciplines. But they share a deep commitment to the University of Nebraska’s most fundamental responsibilities: educating our students, conducting important and relevant research, and putting their skills to work to serve Nebraskans and people around the world. I am inspired by their work.

The 2015 awardees follow. We developed a video for each winner; I invite you to learn more about our honorees and the good work they are doing by clicking on their names below.

Outstanding Research and Creative Activity Award

  • Charles Wood, Ph.D., Lewis Lehr/3M University Distinguished Professor and director of the Nebraska Center for Virology at UNL, who has devoted his career to driving innovations in HIV/AIDS research that have resulted in new prevention and management efforts and new treatment methods that suppress the virus.

  • Wayne Fisher, Ph.D., H.B. Munroe Professor of Behavioral Research and director of the Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders at UNMC, who is dedicated to improving the lives of children with autism.

Outstanding Teaching and Instructional Creativity Award

  • Chandrakanth Are, M.B.B.S., vice chair of education for the Department of Surgery, associate professor of surgical oncology, and program director for general surgery residency at UNMC, who has earned a reputation as an innovative educator, meticulous surgeon and someone with exemplary dedication to patients.

  • Martha Mamo, Ph.D., professor of agronomy at UNL, whose teaching methods are inspiring students’ interest in soil sciences and whose research is advancing global food security.

Innovation, Development and Engagement Award

  • Stephen Reichenbach, Ph.D., professor of computer science and engineering at UNL and founding director of GC Image LLC, who is a role model to colleagues interesting in pursuing collaborative research or developing university-based spinoff companies.

  • Michael Epstein, Ed.D., William E. Barkley Professor of Special Education and director of the Center for Child and Family Well-Being at UNL, whose research on improving the lives of children with behavioral and mental health disorders has resulted in a major shift in the field of child mental health.

University-wide Departmental Teaching Award

  • UNL Department of Entomology, whose faculty are widely known for their student-focused approach, innovative ideas, and commitment to sharing their knowledge in the community.

Congratulations again to the 2015 recipients of the University of Nebraska’s highest honors for teaching, research and service. These faculty – together with employees across our campuses – are a key reason why the university is in a strong position today to become a giant in higher education. I continue to be humbled and honored to serve with such talented, energetic and committed colleagues. Thank you for all that you do for the University of Nebraska, our students, and people in our state and around the world.

Hank Bounds
President, University of Nebraska

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