Chancellor Doug Kristensen
As most Nebraskans know well, our state has continued to struggle against the effects of the nationwide economic downturn, and it has become a major focus of budget planners to find economies in all parts of government. Within the University of Nebraska, our situation for the current biennium (fiscal years 2009-10 and 2010-11) has been complicated by the additional reductions in appropriations for this year that resulted from the Special Session of the Unicameral last fall. Some other factors affecting our immediate budget future have not yet been determined and will likely remain undecided for the next several weeks or months. However, I want to bring the campus up to date on where we stand at this time with respect to overall targets and the general course we will take in planning to meet them.
As for our overall reduction target for the biennium, it now appears that it will be approximately $2.4 million, in state-aided money (generally: tuition and appropriations). Reductions in the first year (2009-10), including those resulting from the recent Special Session, will total more than $1.1 million. It appears that reductions in the second year (2010-11), under current University-wide planning parameters, will amount to an additional $1.3 million.
Here is how we expect to proceed.
First, we will bring the analytical and decision-making process to a close that we initiated last fall, addressing the 2009-10 reduction objectives that were known at that time. In that process we developed proposals designed to reduce our state-aided budget by $794,059, which was the target assigned to UNK in June 2009. I have now been able to consider carefully all comments that were offered on those proposals, and I have also consulted personally with leaders of several affected units. This extended dialogue has been most informative, and I deeply appreciate the patience and thoughtfulness that everyone involved has displayed as we have worked through it together. Upon the advice UNK’s administrative leaders, I have decided to approve those reduction proposals. You may view an outline of those cuts using the link provided below. With one exception, they are the proposals which I distributed for campus review on August 4, 2009; the one exception involves detail regarding the reduction required in the College of Education. After further review in the College, Dean Scantling proposed an alternative approach to achieving the required economies, and that amended approach is shown in the attached table.
These cuts, of course, will have appreciable impact. In academic affairs we will lose some faculty positions and fill some others in ways that are not preferable; opportunities for Graduate Assistants will be reduced; and there will be reduced support available from the library and from travel and equipment budgets. In administration we will lose staff and funds supporting external activities, fund-raising, and student affairs. We have also lost some monies that have enabled us to address unexpected needs or opportunities with our own (campus) discretionary resources. And, where we have used non-state monies to substitute for state funds that must be reduced, we will lose flexibility to devote the substituted funds to other campus purposes. In the end, however, although such reductions are painful and require us to adjust organization and operations to protect the core of our academic enterprise, I am confident we remain a strong institution overall.
There is, of course, a second step ahead of us — another round of reduction planning, to cope with the result of the Special Session as well as needed cuts in the second year of the biennium. For 2009-10, we must find an additional $342,763 worth of reductions, and for 2010-11 we must find $1.3 million more. The figure for 2010-11 may change somewhat over the next few months, depending on decisions affecting key variables such as tuition charges and staff salary levels. In accordance with early guidance from President Milliken, UNK’s administrative team has discussed a number of ways to economize, both to save additional money in the current year and to operate at reduced resource levels on a sustained basis thereafter. As requested we will continue, for instance, to examine opportunities to save money by altering or deferring our hiring, travel, and purchasing plans, and by postponing initiatives that may require additional appropriations. Already I have decided to implement a recommendation that all hiring to fill vacant state-funded positions, and all requests to establish new state-funded positions, cannot go forward unless the cognizant Vice Chancellor (or for offices I supervise, the Chancellor) determines that there is pressing need to approve them. I should add that the standard of proof to establish need will be very high: clear jeopardy to mission-central functions. I have also asked leaders of major portfolios to ensure, effective immediately, that an extra level of scrutiny is applied to travel, purchasing, and new appropriations-funded program requests, so that all nonessential expenditures can be eliminated.
Over the next few months we will develop potential 2010-11 reduction recommendations in our major administrative portfolios, and after evaluating those proposals my colleagues and I will assemble a consolidated cut scenario for campus-wide review and comment. I will keep you regularly informed as we learn of new developments, and particularly as some factors affecting our reduction targets are decided in Varner Hall or by the Board of Regents.
As we take this next major step, I would like to assure the entire campus community that we will proceed in accordance with familiar principles — guidance that has been ratified in our planning documents and that has steered our planners through successive reduction exercises over the last several years. In our present situation (and foreseeable futures), I would outline those precepts as follows:
- Our overarching strategic goals are (1) to enhance quality, especially in our academic programs but also in support operations across campus, and (2) to expand UNK’s impact through larger enrollment and outreach.
- Considering the many needs that press upon us every day, our main priorities will be as follows:
1. To promote excellence in teaching and scholarship.
2. To preserve capability in academic programs that are high quality and for which there is demonstrable and sustained need/demand.
3. To preserve faculty and staff as necessary to sustain excellence.
4. To retain core academic offerings and student services that ensure students can complete degree requirements in timely fashion.
5. To sustain essential support functions across campus.
- As we go forward, I would expect our analytical and decision-making process to have the following main characteristics.
1. All major divisions of the university will participate in the budget cuts.
2. To identify options, we will rely on the expertise of department, program, college, and other major portfolio managers in regular administrative channels. Options will be assessed carefully in those channels, using input from affected units and other factors deemed appropriate by responsible managers, such as Academic Program Reviews, enrollment trends, and the allocation of prior budget reductions among campus units.
3. With the aid of my Cabinet colleagues, and considering the recommendations that emerge from the evaluation process, I will assemble a consolidated reduction package for campus review and comment to meet the expectations of shared governance and participatory decision-making.
4. Our timetable will likely be familiar: we will assemble reduction recommendations over the next several months, and we may adjust them as required by University-wide decisions on tuition, staff salaries, and so forth. I would hope to have a consolidated recommendation ready for campus review by the beginning of the next academic year. If it is possible to move more quickly, we will try to do so.
5. Reductions will focus on the state-aided budget, but we will examine all reasonable possibilities to sustain needed functions at current levels by relying to a greater extent on support from non-state funds.
6. We value our employees, and to the extent feasible we will preserve existing work force capability by deferring new hires and postponing implementation of new programs.
7. We will consider ways to reorganize, if restructuring might lead to more economical operations and can be accomplished in an academically sound manner that serves students’ interests.
I want to extend my thanks once again to all those who contributed to our analysis and decisions on 2009-10 budget options. Your expertise and commitment to UNK have been exemplary. So, I might add, have been your patience and good humor. I wish I could say that our work on this topic has been completed, but of course that will not be our situation for the foreseeable future. The UNK community can be sure, however, that we will do our best to emerge from this painful process with core missions — and our positive institutional momentum — intact.
Douglas A. Kristensen, J.D.
University of Nebraska at Kearney
1000 Founders Hall
Kearney, NE 68849