Well over 80 jobs would disappear under proposed budget cuts in the University of Nebraska system, and that’s only the beginning, according to plans released early this week.
With the reduction of 82 full-time-equivalent positions in the NU system, $9.2 million worth of cuts would be made. NU system officials would look for more than $25 million more in cuts to comply with a proposal by Gov. Pete Ricketts.
Administrators Monday unveiled potential budget cuts that include geography programs at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and baseball and men’s golf and tennis at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
UNK men’s golf coach Wes Bernt invited the team to his home Monday night to debrief after the news.
“It seemed so sudden, I think we are all still processing it,” Bernt said.
NU hopes that state revenues and legislative allocations improve, lessening the burden on campuses. And NU leaders Wednesday will make their case in Lincoln to the Nebraska Legislature’s important Appropriations Committee.
The proposals described Monday give the public — and the Legislature — a sense of the impact of ongoing funding cuts to the NU system, which includes campuses in Omaha, Lincoln and Kearney.
UNK spokeswoman Kelly Bartling said the cuts to men’s athletics are set. UNK has the unique challenge of declining enrollment. Last fall overall enrollment dropped 2.1 percent to 6,644 from 6,788 the year before.
Over pizza, Bernt said the team spent Monday evening discussing transfers and what this means for the players’ college golf careers.
“They were all upset, but there was really more of a reflective mood,” Bernt said. “Everyone was emotional, but it became really clear how much they all care for each other.”
After eight years of coaching at UNK, Bernt said he doesn’t know what his next step is.
“I moved back to Kearney to coach this team,” he said. “I’ll have to figure out what this will mean for me.”
On Monday night, Bernt took more than 30 phone calls from parents, former players, recruiters and community members.
“I couldn’t believe how much support there is for this program,” he said. “Everyone is going to miss it.”
For now, he said the players are just focused on finishing the season strong. “We’ll have practice today (Tuesday) and it’ll definitely be a different dynamic. There’s no more building for the future anymore.”
NU Regent Bob Phares of North Platte declined to talk about the specifics of the cuts but did say: “We’re concerned about the impact of these cuts on the university. We can’t just efficiency ourselves out of everything. This is going to have a significant impact on what we do and the cost for our potential students.”
NU President Hank Bounds called Monday a difficult day for his university system.
“There are a number of areas (affected) that have tenured faculty,” Bounds said in a brief interview.
Many of the proposed cuts would still have to go through campus procedures with faculty members, Bounds said.
Dr. Jeffrey Gold, who oversees both of NU’s Omaha campuses, said the proposals announced Monday make up only a portion of the cuts that would be necessary over the long run.
Gold said the total cuts facing the NU system over the next 18 months or so equal about $34 million.
The NU system took a midyear cut of about $13.5 million a year ago. Gov. Pete Ricketts recommends another midyear cut of about $11.5 million for NU this year. And Ricketts recommends another cut, of about $23 million, over the planned allocation to NU for 2018-19.
“So this is not everything,” Gold said.
Among the proposed cuts:
» UNL: Geography bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral programs; art history bachelor’s and master’s degree programs; electronics engineering bachelor of science; Haskell Agricultural Laboratory.
» UNO: Career Development Office in the College of Business.
» UNK: Driver’s education teacher specialization.
» UNMC: Munroe-Meyer Institute developmental neuroscience division; the College of Public Health’s community-oriented primary care program; the master of science nursing gerontology clinical specialist program; and the master in forensic sciences, which was to start in the fall.
Numerous other programs throughout the system would be trimmed.
UNMC would consolidate support staff in the College of Medicine; consolidate some of the classroom teaching programs in nursing in Kearney, Norfolk and Scottsbluff and teaching of dental hygiene in Gering-Scottsbluff to rely more on telecommunications; and eliminate some faculty members, fellows or staff in the College of Pharmacy, College of Public Health and Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center.
Gold said UNMC would maximize unfilled positions and planned retirements. But some active employees at UNMC almost surely will lose their jobs, he said.
Other programs and services to be reduced in the NU system include the UNL Rural Futures Institute, and distance and continuing studies in UNO’s Offutt Air Force Base programs. At UNK, the College of Fine Arts and Humanities and College of Natural and Social Sciences would be merged.
“It’s unfortunate that any of this is happening,” said Laura Grams, president of the UNO Faculty Senate and chairwoman of the university’s philosophy department.
Grams said she remains hopeful that the Legislature will help NU and that the communities that benefit from the campuses will show their support.
“I feel passionate about the value of the university,” Grams said. “I just don’t want it (the possible cuts) to hurt students, basically.”
Nathan Daugherty, a senior majoring in geography at UNL, said the program is used by a lot of its students in combination with other areas of study.
Daugherty, who is president of the UNL Geography Student Organization, will graduate in May with minors in communication studies and community and regional planning.
Some students might end up transferring to other colleges, others will end up dropping geography, he said.
“It’s just sad to see more opportunities getting pushed to the side,” he said.