University of Nebraska at Kearney announces strategic budget cuts to address financial challenges

UNK East Entrance

KEARNEY – In a significant restructuring effort, the University of Nebraska at Kearney announced Monday that it will discontinue several academic degrees and faculty positions due to changing enrollment trends and fiscal challenges.

The realignment is in direct response to a $58 million budget shortfall projected for the University of Nebraska System by 2025.

Doug Kristensen, UNK Chancellor
Doug Kristensen, UNK Chancellor

It includes the reduction of 24.5 faculty positions and the discontinuation of nine academic degrees. These decisions, resulting in $2.3 million in savings, are part of a comprehensive plan to mitigate an expected $4.3 million budget deficit at UNK.

“The university recognizes the need for ongoing fiscal responsibility, and these decisions are a result of careful analysis,” said Chancellor Doug Kristensen. “While these reductions are a significant step, we are actively exploring additional cost-saving measures to ensure the long-term sustainability of our institution.”

UNK will be phasing out its theater and recreation management programs, as well as the geography department. All of the programs being discontinued fail to meet the Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education minimum performance standard of seven-plus degrees awarded per year.

Students enrolled in programs that are being eliminated will still have the opportunity to fulfill their graduation requirements.

The following nine degrees are set for elimination, pending University of Nebraska Board of Regents approval:

  • Business Intelligence Emphasis BS
  • Geography BS/BA
  • Geography and GIScience BS
  • Geography 7-12 Teaching Subject Endorsement BA
  • Musical Theatre BM
  • Recreation Management BS
  • Recreation, Outdoor and Event Management BS
  • Theatre BA

The breakdown of faculty positions to be eliminated is as follows:

  • Theater – 4
  • English – 3.5
  • Music – 3
  • Communication, Cyber Systems, Math & Statistics, Modern Languages – 2 each
  • Art & Design, History, Kinesiology & Sport Sciences, Montessori Early Childhood, Philosophy, Physics & Astronomy – 1 each

Employees in roles slated for elimination will be notified by May 2024 and supported through the transition until May 2025. Several positions being eliminated are presently vacant, being vacated by retirees or held by employees opting for voluntary departure agreements.

“These are undoubtedly challenging times, but we are taking decisive action to position UNK for the future,” Kristensen said. “We have conducted a comprehensive review of our degree programs. Consequently, some programs will be phased out or restructured to better serve the evolving needs of our students and community.”

UNK has already implemented a hiring freeze that includes 77 full-time positions, saving approximately $4.1 million this academic year. The university is also undertaking zero-based budget reviews and considering recommendations to reduce $2 million across various areas that include:

  • Administrative Reduction – $400,000
  • UNK Global – $400,000
  • Enrollment Management, Marketing & Student Affairs – $300,000
  • Office Associate Redeployment – $300,000
  • Division of Business & Finance – $200,000
  • Intercollegiate Athletics – $200,000
  • Departmental Operating Funds – $120,000
  • Calvin T. Ryan Library – $80,000

UNK leadership will present its budget findings to University of Nebraska System President Ted Carter on Dec. 1.