Response of the APC to the Chancellor's Proposed Budget Reductions for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Round Two – FY 02/03

MAY 10, 2002

University of Nebraska-Lincoln


The Academic Planning Committee received Round II of the Chancellor's proposed budget reductions for FY 02/03 on April 22, 2002. In the initial announcement, the proposed reductions for the Division of Continuing Studies (DCS) were not delineated by specific programs. The Committee received specific descriptions of the proposed reductions for the DCS on May 7. Anticipating the limited time available to review and make recommendations on these proposals, the committee sent on April 18 an email to the UNL community announcing procedures for making written responses to the proposed reductions. These were due on April 26. Public hearings were announced through an email to the university community on April 29 and were presented on the Chancellor's web page. A press release to the state on April 30 also outlined the times and locations of the hearings.

The APC received oral comments and engaged in question/answer sessions on several budget topics in open meetings on May 1, 3, 6 and 8, 2002. The meeting on May 1 was held in the Nebraska Union on City Campus and was an open forum for anyone who wished to speak on any of the proposed budget reductions. Further discussion on the Trailside Museum superintendent position, a carryover proposed reduction from Round I, was held on May 1. The APC invited representatives from the DCS to be involved in discussions on May 3 and May 8. Discussions on the proposed DCS reductions were more specific on May 8 following receipt of the specific programmatic reductions in the proposal. The APC also invited IANR representatives, along with a representative from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, to discussions on May 3 concerning the Panhandle Veterinary Specialist position and the Diagnostic Laboratory. On May 6, the APC centered its attention solely on the proposed reduction of the Panhandle Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and Veterinary Specialist position, holding discussions with a group assembled in the auditorium at the Panhandle Research and Extension Center (PREC) and in Chase Hall on East Campus via a two-way satellite video/audio communications link.

The APC also met in closed session on May 6 and May 8, 2002, to discuss the proposals and information gathered through the process described above.

General Reactions to Proposed Budget Reductions

The Academic Planning Committee takes no pleasure in supporting proposals that call for budget reductions that will have negative impacts on programs and individuals. Any reductions will create losses, but the university is left with no choice but to make reductions when it has lost an additional $1,497,959 of its state-aided support for FY 02/03. The APC does believe that the proposed reductions have been given careful consideration by all levels of administration before being made public and, in all but one case, are reductions that minimize damage to the university and protect its core missions as much as possible during this time of budget reductions.

With the exception of the Panhandle Research and Extension Center Veterinary Extension Specialist position, the APC supports implementation of the budget reductions as described in Round II of the Chancellor's Proposed Budget Reductions for FY 02/03 announced on April 22, 2002. Comments on all proposed reductions, in the order presented in the Chancellor's announcement, follow.

Division of Continuing Studies—Reduce State Support by $842,858

The Division of Continuing Studies was challenged with the largest proposed dollar reduction in Round II. Several responses from non-traditional students and other clients were received. The Academic Planning Committee compliments the leadership of the DCS on its creativity in dealing with this large proposed reduction in a responsible manner. The DCS plan minimizes disruption in offerings of core programs in evening and distance education classes. Although specific class reductions will still need to be identified following discussions with affected academic departments, the criteria that the DCS has identified for making course deletions are sound. It appears that up to 12 out of the total 209 offered in distance courses (5.7 percent), and up to four out of the total 320 evening courses (1.2 percent ) may not be offered in the next year. Yet, the APC compliments the DCS on preserving a large portion of its key mission to serve non-traditional students.

The APC has the following observations on the cost of distance education course offerings. The difference in cost between distance and campus offerings of the same classes should be examined. We respect the wishes of the University of Nebraska Board of Regents to offer all classes of the university to Nebraska residents located across Nebraska at the same tuition basis. But, we suspect that distance classes cost much more in many situations than campus-based classes, and at least a significant portion of these higher costs should be recovered through technology fees. Consideration should also be given to the fact that on-campus students bear significant expenses that are not incurred by off-campus students. We also suggest that internal grant support be given to instructors or departments to convert distance courses to the Internet and then remove these classes from satellite delivery. Besides decreasing delivery costs, this may also increase enrollment in these same classes.

Members of the Sharing Across Generations for Enrichment (SAGE) program value this program and have embarked on a plan to finance it through greater membership fees and University of Nebraska Foundation gifts. Because this program was identified for loss of some funds needed to keep it viable, an initiative by members has started and we applaud these resourceful efforts. Although this program will be more self-supporting, the APC recognizes the continued DCS subsidy of the program through the teaching facility and the very special contributions of many UNL faculty who volunteer as teachers. The SAGE program has been assigned exclusive use of a well-equipped room in the Hardin Center. Additional funding might be generated in support of the SAGE program, and DCS in general, by renting the room on occasion for other functions.

Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources—Reduce State Support by $404,449

International Programs: $22,517. No objections were received. The APC continues to believe that consolidation of international programs at UNL is a positive idea and has no objection to this proposal.

Panhandle Research and Extension Center Veterinary Specialist and Diagnostic Laboratory: $213,413 (loss of 1.0 FTE vacant faculty position and 2.6 FTE staff positions). The proposed elimination of the program of the Extension Veterinary Specialist and accompanying Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at the Panhandle Research and Extension Center (PREC) brought many responses from livestock producers, area veterinarians, representatives of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, representatives of the Riverside Zoo, 4-H leaders and civic leaders in the Scottsbluff, Gering and surrounding area. In addition to the responses sent directly to the APC, these same constituents expressed their concerns in writing to Chancellor Perlman and to NU Vice President and IANR Vice Chancellor John Owens, and in an open forum on April 24 at the PREC with Vice Chancellor Owens. The APC approached the proposed reduction of the faculty position and the diagnostic laboratory as separable issues.

    Closing the PREC Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory would certainly result in less convenient service for residents of the Panhandle and a slower response for answers in some types of diagnoses. This loss would be problematic for residents of the Panhandle and other users of the laboratory's services who reside outside the Panhandle. The APC found itself confronted with the question of how many diagnostic laboratories could be maintained for the state, especially in times of fiscal limitations. Lincoln is the "core lab." The major diagnostic functions are performed in Lincoln, given the need for an array of specialized tests, equipment and diagnostic specialists. With a "satellite" laboratory at North Platte in place and staffed, we feel that a diagnostic laboratory system exists that can handle many of the needs of the western half of the state as well as the rest of Nebraska. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission makes effective use of the PREC Diagnostic Lab as a site for collecting and processing samples for Chronic Wasting Disease, and we support maintaining this function with Game and Parks funding. With Game and Parks' expressed willingness to provide financial support, perhaps one technician now located at the PREC Diagnostic Laboratory could be maintained on some portion of an appointment.

The proposed loss of the extension responsibilities of the Veterinary Specialist will be the hardest to replace. The APC heard testimony from IANR administrators on how the university might try to provide some extension programming in animal health and keep the network of service to livestock producers in the Panhandle. Although we respect the attempt to develop a possible plan for providing this service to an area of the state that depends very heavily on livestock production, the APC questions whether sufficient programming could result without a specialist assigned to the PREC. With emerging issues in animal health, including fear of introduction of new diseases and bio-terrorism, coupled with the expanding size of the livestock industry in the Panhandle, we believe that an Extension Veterinary Specialist must be retained at the PREC. In addition, as we compared significance to the university mission of this faculty position relative to open IANR positions that have administrative or managerial responsibilities, the APC came to the conclusion that other choices for budget reductions, although also difficult, are more defensible.

With a Veterinary Specialist position at the PREC concentrating mainly on extension, a different position description for the Extension Veterinary Specialist/Veterinary Diagnostic position at the West Central Research and Extension Center (WCREC) could be pursued. With an expected increase in diagnostic cases coming from the Panhandle region, more time in the WCREC Diagnostic Laboratory may be required and hence less time in extension programming and service. The Veterinary Specialist at PREC could then assume a significant portion of the extension responsibilities in the West Central region. The APC thus envisions two Veterinary Specialists coordinating extension needs. This coordination would also help the PREC specialist as that person might be called in to handle some of the responses with diagnoses coming through the laboratories concerning animals in the Panhandle. In addition, the development of cooperative arrangements with adjacent states for extension and diagnostic services is encouraged as another avenue of improving services to our constituents.

Agricultural Economics: $62,991. (Eliminate a 1.0 FTE vacant faculty position). The APC understands that all vacant IANR positions revert to the Vice Chancellor for reassignment within the Institute to address high-priority initiatives and program needs. Given the present budget circumstance, the APC does not object to this proposed reduction. The Department of Agricultural Economics will have opportunity to apply for a similar position in the future.

Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication: $81,705.
(Eliminate a 1.0 FTE vacant faculty position). The APC understands that all vacant IANR positions revert to the Vice Chancellor for reassignment within the Institute to address high-priority initiatives and program needs. Given the present budget circumstance, the APC does not object to this proposed reduction. The Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication will have opportunity to apply for a similar position in the future.

The APC believes that programming lost with the reductions of the Agricultural Economics and the Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications faculty positions could be more easily "re-started" with future hires than the programming lost if the Panhandle Veterinary Specialist position is deleted now and then re-established at a later date.

Nebraska Forest Service: $23,823. (Eliminate a 1.0 FTE vacant staff secretary position). No objections were received. The APC values the ongoing collaboration with the Nebraska Forest Service, but has no objection to the elimination of the vacant secretarial position.

Department of Athletics—Reduce State Support by $250,652. This proposal would eliminate state support for maintenance of the Devaney Center. The Athletic Department plans to absorb these costs through internal adjustments. The APC received no objections concerning this proposed reduction and has no objection to its implementation.

Trailside Museum—Elimination of Superintendent Position
In Round I of proposed budget reductions, the APC questioned the plan for maintaining a viable Trailside Museum and thus opposed elimination of the superintendent position. After hearing testimony on the improved plan that the Nebraska State Museum has, including the intent to enter into an agreement with the Nebraska State Historical Society to assist with operations of the Trailside Museum, the APC has no disagreement with the plan to keep this museum functioning for the state. The APC removes its opposition to the elimination of the superintendent's position.