Online Exclusive: Budget deficits lead to tuition increase

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Jessica Wade

Finding the financial means to attend a four-year university is a challenge many college students face. If the University of Nebraska loses the projected $58 million in funding, the challenge will become insurmountable.

Not yet established in the work force, young adults are trying to find footing in a competitive job market. A college degree can give young workers an advantage when searching for a career, but the funds necessary to attend a four-year university are becoming increasingly difficult to obtain. A raise in tuition could be catastrophic to the many university students who already struggle to make ends meet.

“The idea of a tuition raise is kind of scary,” elementary education major Emily Caveye said. “I already have to take out loans; I’ll probably be in debt until I die.”

The possibility of a tuition increase has been looming ever since the Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board found tax revenue will fall nearly $1 billion below what was expected by June 30, 2019.

To his credit, University of Nebraska President Hank Bounds is working to find a solution. Bounds has formed the Budget Response team, a group of experts from 10 areas of university operations including human resources, energy, communications and IT.

“We want to be certain we’ve done everything possible to maintain our impact, preserve our quality and keep moving forward on the important work of growing the economy and transforming lives in Nebraska and around the world,” Bounds said in a press release.

Bounds further emphasized the importance of state funding on Feb. 3 while speaking to students and faculty at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

“We’re facing fiscal stress in the state,” Bounds said. “We’re going to find as many efficiencies as we can.”

Bounds also pointed out that in the past, other programs have received significantly higher increases in funding than the universities. Since 2000, state funding for the Corrections Department has increased by 133 percent and Medicaid has gone up 172 percent. For NU, however, appropriations have gone up 57 percent, Bounds said.

Nebraska does have to tighten its fiscal belt, but cutting funds to public universities is not a long-term solution. A tuition hike could actually create more problems in the future.

Students entering the work force with degrees earned from the University of Nebraska provide a boost to the economy and help replace the many workers reaching retirement age. Making a college degree a less obtainable goal would decrease the number of college-educated Nebraskans entering the work force, which would hurt the economy, which in turn would lead to further financial shortcomings.

“I also believe that we must use this budgetary challenge as an opportunity to become an even more collaborative and forward-thinking university,” Bounds said. “The Budget Response Team has a difficult task but I’m confident its members will identify creative ideas for positioning university operations for the future.”

Bounds’ optimism is heartening, and hopefully NU can work with the state to find a solution.
The reality, however, is that students and professors can’t afford a budget deficit. Until the state sees the value in funding education, NU and Nebraska’s economy will suffer.