Protect the future of Nebraska, fund NU

Graphic by Connor Beebe
Jessica Wade

“We have to remain laser-focused on growing Nebraska,” Gov. Pete Ricketts said during his annual State of the State speech. “That means cutting red tape, balancing the budget and delivering tax relief.”

It’s an interesting tactic, stating the goal of “growing Nebraska” while simultaneously cutting funding to the University of Nebraska—the largest employer in the state according to Business Insider.

The University of Nebraska will face another $11 million in budget cuts this academic year, with $23 million being cut the following year under Rickett’s budget proposal. As NU President Hank Bounds pointed out in an email sent last week, Ricketts is asking the NU system “to shoulder one-third of his proposed cuts – despite the fact that we comprise only 13 percent of the state’s total budget.”

The $11 million shortfall this year follows cuts made during the 2017-18 academic year when the NU system experienced a mid-year cut of $13.3 million prior to June 30, 2017. The university was also projected to cut $58 million from the budget plan over the next two years.

“I’m happy to report that the state of the state is strong and growing,” Ricketts said.

The email sent out by Bound’s office had a very different tone.

“Dear Colleagues, I am writing with difficult news,” it begins. “…I need to be candid with you about how an additional cut from the state would impact us.”

Bounds’ email explained that despite the efforts of NU’s Budget Response Team, the $30 million they have identified may not be enough to save all faculty positions, programs or tuition from increasing.

The reality of the budget cuts is already being felt by UNL after the university’s College of Journalism and Mass Communications Dean Maria Marron announced her resignation last week. The announcement came after a letter circulated throughout the NU system that raised concerns about an apparent lack of funding and institutional support for college.

As Bounds said in his statement, “The numbers are not final.” The budget proposal will be passed to the Appropriations Committee and Nebraska senators for review.

“The highest priority for the chancellors and me in the months ahead will be doing everything we can to lessen our cuts and the impact on our students, faculty and citizens we serve,” Bounds said.

In the meantime, students aren’t entirely voiceless when it comes to the budget issue. Students and faculty can provide input on where they’d like to see the cuts. In an email to UNO students sent last week, Chancellor Jeffrey Gold addressed the budget cuts, and included a link to a form that lets students share their suggestions to “maintain our momentum.”

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 will decrease the number of college-educated Nebraskans entering the work force, which would hurt the economy, and, in turn, would lead to further financial shortcomings.

Investing in Nebraska’s institutes of higher education means investing in the future of Nebraska.

As Bounds said: “We are in a remarkable position to join with our partners to continue transforming the lives of students and people here and around the world. As I will remind policymakers, however, we cannot do that unless the state decides that affordable, excellent higher education is a priority for Nebraska.”