NU leaders request hike in state funding


By Phil Brown, Reporter

An attempt by the University of Nebraska leadership to secure funding for the next two years has been met with opposition by members of the Nebraska Legislature’s Appropriations committee.

NU leaders pitched the University System’s improvements in many areas, citing high enrollment, low tuition, research and business partnerships. They urged the committee to look on the funding increase as an investment, but some of the members were critical.

“I would ask you to consider an investment in the University of Nebraska that meets our core needs and allows us to make real progress in areas that we are convinced will benefit our state,” Interim President Dr. Jim Lender said to the Lincoln Journal Star. It seems the Appropriations team were unimpressed with the investment rhetoric.

For reference, the proposed budget increase for the next term is $47.4 million, which is about 5 percent of the university’s current funding, and is about .5 percent of the state’s total budget for the fiscal year. The funding will also be spread throughout the university system, in Omaha, Lincoln and Kearney. The difference between the university’s proposal and the governor’s own recommendation is about two percentage points: Ricketts recommended a 3 percent increase back in January. Appropriations committee member Bill Kitner said the two percents can be put to much better use than an investment into the state’s educational system.

Senator Kitner of Papillion, who represents District 2, seemed particularly miffed with the university leadership, the Lincoln Journal Star reports.

“I would say shocking would be the word that comes to mind that you have the gall to come and ask for that much money”, he chided, and threatened a Ricketts veto should the measure survive the legislature and add .5 percent to the state’s budget.
Speaker Galen Hadley expounded on the theme of investment in support of an additional measure that would appropriate 20 million to support various economic support programs, using the metaphor of seed corn.
“You hope that seed corn grows into a stalk of corn, and you get a return on your investment from it,” he said.
He went on to emphasize the relative size of the measure. “We’re spending a lot of money on economic incentive programs,” he said to the Omaha World Herald.“I think you’ll find the $20 million is a rather small amount compared to other econ-incentive programs.
While the programs and funding discussed in the legislature may always be hypothetical to lawmakers,their outcome will become the reality of students and faculty a like in the next few years.