Regents approve $3.46 billion budget for 2024-25

The Nebraska Board of Regents on June 20 approved a $3.46 billion budget and a 3.4 percent tuition increase for 2024-25 on a 6 to 2 vote. (Click here for budget documents that were distributed to the Regents.)


Regent Kathy Wilmot and Chair Robert Schafer opposed the budget proposal. Both objected to the tuition increase.

Schafer said he could not support a budget that raised tuition at the same time that the university system was cutting programs and services for students. He also asked if any of the money in the budget would be going to diversity, equity and inclusion programs. Interim President Chris Kabourek said it would. Campus chancellors agreed they were continuing to provide DEI programs, but all of them said spending on DEI had been reduced.

Wilmot said asking in-state students to pay 3.4 percent more at the same time their families were paying taxes to the state amounted to a double hit. She suggested a smaller increase would be more palatable.

 The tuition increase will not affect students admitted under the Nebraska Promise program, which provides all tuition for Nebraska families with gross-adjusted incomes of $65,000 or less.

Every regent spoke on the budget issue. Tim Clare said the proposed budget was a responsible one that would eliminate the structural deficit while being affordable to students and their families. The additional revenue in the budget—from the Legislature as well as from tuition—will enable the university “to remain on offense,” he said. In particular, it will allow investments that will help the University of Nebraska-Lincoln eventually regain membership in the Association of American Universities, elevate the entire NU system and invest in expanding the Presidential Scholars program.

Clare said as a parent who had put five children through college, he understood the burden of tuition. Although higher education is expensive, students understand that “excellence has a price tag,” he said.

Regent Barbara Weitz, who was a full-time faculty member at the University of Nebraska at Omaha for 18 years, said she didn’t like increasing tuition, but the money was needed to keep faculty pay competitive. Other universities, she said, are trying to lure faculty away from NU with offers of higher salaries. If Nebraska universities are going to remain competitive and contribute to the economic growth of the state, they will need to retain faculty, she said.

Weitz said the task of funding the NU system will require convincing the Legislature and private donors of the value of higher education to the state and how it helps Nebraska lure businesses.

Other regents who supported the budget proposal noted that even with the tuition increase, Nebraska schools will remain cheaper than their competitors. Regent Jack Stark said UNL is and will remain the second-cheapest school in the Big Ten. Purdue University has a lower tuition for in-state students, but it charges much higher tuition for out-of-state students.

Charlie Bicak, the interim chancellor of the University of Nebraska at Kearney, said UNK’s tuition will still be lower than that of any of the nine schools in its peer group.

All four chancellors supported the budget proposal and the tuition increase. UNL Chancellor Rodney Bennett said the tuition increase is not a replacement for making hard decisions about programs and spending. Jeffrey Gold, the UN Medical Center chancellor who will become system president next month, said by eliminating the structural deficit, the budget tells the governor and the Legislature the university is not asking them to dig it out of a budget hole.

The NU system budget has two parts: One is the state-aided budget, which includes appropriations from the legislature and tuition, and the other comes from outside revenues and includes money from housing, athletic department revenues, grants and NU Foundation support.

The state-aided budget projects total revenues of $1.09 billion. State appropriations are almost two-thirds of that. Most of the rest comes from resident and nonresident tuition. Tuition will increase by an average of 3.4 percent, but the budget projects tuition revenue will increase 4.8 percent. The difference is explained by an anticipated 1.3 percent increase in enrollment.

Of the state-aided budget, about $914 million goes to salaries and benefits for faculty and nonfaculty employees.

The university anticipates that the outside revenues for the coming year will amount to about $2.37 billion.

Kabourek said the budget achieved balance through three steps. One is the tuition increase. The other two are a permanent spending cut of $11.5 million and the elimination of any allocations for inflation. The latter step will save about $6 million. The $11.5 million in cuts comes on top of the nearly $30 million in cuts already made over the last two years. The budget does not specify what cuts will be made to achieve the $11.5 million in savings.

The interim president also said the budget includes new investments. One is the addition of $1.5 million to the Presidential Scholars program, which will allow the expansion of the program to high-achieving students who have less-than-perfect scores on the ACT. Another is a $15 million investment in the Kristensen Rural Health Complex at UNK. Also, the budget includes $1.5 million for in-coming President Gold to invest in programs he selects.

“We fully believe we can achieve our goals for AAU readmission, making UNO a premier metropolitan university, strengthening UNK’s role in rural Nebraska and maintaining our world-class medical center,” Kabourek said in introducing the budget proposal.

In addition to approving the operating budget, the regents approved increases in student program and facilities fees at each of the four campuses.

In other business, the regents approved the elimination of three UNL degree programs: the master of arts in mathematics, the master of science for teachers in mathematics and the master of laws degree in U.S. legal studies. The M.A. in math and the M.S. in teaching math duplicated other degree programs that are more popular. The master of laws program has had fewer that five students since 2014 and none at present.

The regents approved a new major at UNL: business analytics. The program will lead to a bachelor of science degree be administered by the department of supply-chain management. The program will require no new faculty or resources but is expected to draw international students.