June 8, 2017
Last week we wrote to you regarding our budget planning, including our work to cut costs to manage reductions in state funding. We’ve pledged to update you frequently throughout this process. Today we have new information to share.
The Board of Regents has approved the university’s operating budget for 2017-18, including our approach for managing a recurring $49 million shortfall resulting from funding cuts and rising expenses. We’ll close the gap with a combination of spending cuts and revenue – choices that, while difficult, protect to the greatest extent possible our affordability and the quality of our academic enterprise.
We’re in a position to protect those priorities because of your good work, and we’re grateful. As we’ve said all along, however, cuts to our budget become even more challenging when viewed together with state funding trends over time that have required us to become a lean institution already. We will manage this budget, but there’s no question that with additional cuts we would not be able to keep tuition increases as moderate as they are now – or limit our cost reductions to operational areas.
“Changing the way we do business will take time and will have a broad impact across the university. We’ll learn as we go along.”
The budget approved by the Board depends on $30 million in university-wide cuts over the next several years. As you know, “Budget Response Teams” made up of subject matter experts in areas like information technology, facilities and finance have been working since January to find cost savings. These colleagues have done diligent, thoughtful, difficult work. They deserve our thanks.
We are now beginning to finalize the teams’ recommendations and move to an implementation phase. While we’re still working through final decisions, we do know that they will include a range of changes. In some cases, we’ve identified more efficient processes or structures that will allow us to serve students and Nebraskans more collaboratively. Some of the changes will impact jobs. We expect to lose more than 100 positions, through attrition where possible and only after careful consideration and communication about decisions of this magnitude.
Changing the way we do business will take time and will have a broad impact across the university. We’ll learn as we go along. For example, new processes in how we contract with vendors will save us money in the long term, but may interrupt or slow down purchasing within colleges or departments as we adjust. We are moving with a sense of urgency, but we’re much more interested in getting this right – in putting lasting changes in place that will position us for long-term success.
To that end, we are pleased to tell you that Dr. Marjorie Kostelnik, dean of the College of Education and Human Sciences at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln since 2000, is stepping down to become senior associate to the president on July 1 to lead implementation of the Budget Response Teams’ recommendations. Chancellor Green has communicated with his campus about plans for interim leadership for the college and a national search for a permanent successor.
Marjorie has decades of experience as a faculty member, has steered her college through significant change and has a deep understanding of our governance, processes and our university-wide mission. She is an excellent choice to lead us through this process in close partnership with Budget Response Team members.
There’s another story that came out of last week’s regents meeting – a story that may not have gotten as many headlines as our budget, but which is equally important to the momentum and competitiveness of our university and state. The Board approved three new centers of excellence, in food for health, global health security and child health.
Each of these centers will take advantage of unique strengths on all four of our campuses for maximum impact. Each will transform lives in Nebraska and around the world. Each elevates our reputation in areas that matter. Each is a game-changer.
In remarks to the Board, one of our faculty members said it best: We have audacious goals. We do indeed. We are managing a challenging period – but we’re also looking ahead, thinking about what we can do to educate students, conduct research and grow our economy in new and innovative ways. Now, more than ever, the state of Nebraska needs its university to be an engine for growth. We are ready to lead the way.
Hank M. Bounds, Ph.D.
University of Nebraska
Jeffrey Gold, M.D.
University of Nebraska Medical Center
University of Nebraska at Omaha
Ronnie Green, Ph.D.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Doug Kristensen, J.D.
University of Nebraska at Kearney