University of Nebraska delivers balanced budget with investments in academic excellence

The University of Nebraska will close its shortfall, keep tuition affordable and invest in priorities like the highly successful Presidential Scholars Program under a proposed 2024-25 operating budget unveiled today by interim President Chris Kabourek.

The proposed budget, which will come before the Board of Regents at its June 20 meeting, advances Nebraska’s vision for academic excellence and competitiveness at a time when the economic headwinds facing all of higher education will require strong fiscal discipline, according to Kabourek. In achieving one of Kabourek’s highest priorities of eliminating the university’s structural deficit, the budget provides a “clean slate” as President-elect Dr. Jeff Gold transitions into his new role on July 1.

“This is a responsible budget that puts us in a strong position for the year ahead,” Kabourek said. “We will need to be disciplined in prioritizing our spending, but I’m very pleased that we have built a plan that allows us to make investments that will have major impact for students, our workforce and Nebraska’s competitiveness.

“I’m especially proud that we have the opportunity to expand our Presidential Scholars Program and recruit even more of Nebraska’s five-star students to our campuses. This has been an incredibly rewarding effort and we can’t wait to talk to students in every corner of the state and tell them how much we want them on Team Nebraska.”

Highlights of the proposed $1.1 billion operating budget include:


  • A modest tuition increase that amounts to an inflationary contribution for students. The increase equals $135 per semester for a Nebraska student attending UNL, or $1.29 per day. A UNO student would pay $1.14 more per day, and a UNK student would pay $1 more per day. There will be no impact for students who receive the Nebraska Promise, NU’s financial aid program that guarantees full tuition coverage for Nebraska students with family incomes of $65,000 or less.

“As a first-generation student from rural Nebraska who relied on Pell Grants to pay for college, I don’t take any tuition increase lightly,” Kabourek said. “But we have ambitious goals for academic excellence, and it’s appropriate for all of us – the university, state and our students – to chip in to help get us where we want to go. Nebraska continues to offer what I believe is one of the best combinations of value and quality in the Big Ten and among all our peer groups.”

Spending Cuts

  • $11.8 million in permanent spending cuts to be identified in the upcoming fiscal year. These cuts, to be allocated across the four campuses and Office of the President, follow $30 million in cuts that have been made over the past two years.
  • No allocations for inflation. In other words, Kabourek said, just as Nebraska families are doing, university colleges and departments will be expected to reprioritize their spending to absorb inflationary increases.


  • $1.5 million to expand the Presidential Scholars Program to an annual cohort of 50 of Nebraska’s best and brightest students. Announced in February, the program provides a full cost of attendance scholarship, plus a $5,000 annual stipend, to Nebraska students who score a perfect 36 on the ACT. Already, 17 students have enrolled as part of the inaugural cohort of Presidential Scholars.

With additional funds, the university intends to create an application process for students who score a 32, 33, 34 or 35 on the ACT to compete for the scholarship, beginning next year. Students who score a 36 will continue to automatically qualify. Details on the application process for additional scholars are still to be determined.

  • $1.5 million for other priorities of Gold’s choosing.
  • $15 million in state funding to support staffing and operations at the Kristensen Rural Health Education Complex on the UNK campus. The complex, whose second building is due for completion next year and occupancy in early 2026, will strengthen the health care workforce pipeline for rural Nebraska.
  • A 3% merit-based pool for salary increases for non-unionized faculty and staff. The increase will help the university recruit and retain talent in the highly competitive marketplace.

University leadership will continue to engage the board, faculty, staff, students and all Nebraskans in conversations about the university’s future, Kabourek said.

“There’s no doubt in my mind we can achieve our goals to get back into the AAU, make UNO a premier metropolitan university, strengthen UNK’s role in rural Nebraska and maintain a world-class medical center. But the headwinds facing higher education are not going away,” Kabourek said. “We’ll need to have the courage to challenge the status quo and have uncomfortable conversations about our priorities, structure, productivity, and program and administrative duplication if we want to find the resources necessary to move us forward.

“Nebraskans never shy away from a challenge, and I’m eager to have that conversation across our state.”

The board will also consider the 2024-25 operating budget for the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture. The proposed inflationary tuition increase at NCTA amounts to $5 per credit hour.