November 8, 2023
During the course of this year, university leadership has spoken openly about the financial challenges impacting higher education and the headwinds facing our institution.
In April, then-Chancellor Ronnie Green shared with the campus proposals to reduce the UNL budget by $10.8 million. At that time, he formed a task force made up of deans and vice chancellors to begin planning for further reductions. Earlier this year, the University of Nebraska system also projected a budget deficit for the current biennium and publicly initiated a five-step plan to address the shortfall.
In my first months as chancellor, I have engaged with and listened closely to our faculty, staff and students. I have learned about the challenges resulting from multiple budget reductions. And, I have heard about the big things our people continue to achieve despite those challenges.
For multiple years UNL has carried forward a structural deficit that now totals $12 million. In order for us to reach our full potential and expand our role as a national leader in higher education, we must act to eliminate this deficit. To do so, and in keeping with our commitment to shared governance, I have initiated the formal budget reduction process with the Academic Planning Committee.
The Academic Planning Committee has approved the framework of the overall process and we have submitted to them specific proposals to bring about these necessary reductions. The proposals are based largely on recommendations of the task force that completed its work in the spring. Our proposal does not include recommendations to eliminate academic programs — but that does not mean the impacts will be insignificant.
As outlined in their entirety here, the reductions will affect many areas of our operations. They are designed to increase efficiencies wherever possible and ensure that we continue to offer the high-quality education and support services that our students require.
I have asked the Academic Planning Committee to expedite its review process, providing recommendations in early December. This aggressive schedule is essential to protect our university’s cash reserves. Acting expeditiously also gives us time to focus on next steps.
I would like to be able to reassure you that there will be no further budget reductions, but that is not the case. Our reality is that additional reductions will likely be necessary, and we have already reduced the budget as far as we can without considering academic program eliminations. To that end, I have instructed university leaders to begin planning now for what future reductions may include. I believe this will best position us to make strategic decisions that address our fiscal challenges while shaping us into the institution we want to be in the future.
Let me say again, I firmly believe that the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s best days lie ahead. I believe in each of you, the students, faculty and staff that make up our community. I believe in the people of Nebraska, who have entrusted us with the resources to make UNL a world-leading institution. I believe in the transformative power of higher education and the important work you all do every day. And, I know many of you share these beliefs.
Thank you for your dedication and unwavering commitment to our university. Together, through our combined strength, there is nothing we cannot achieve.
Rodney D. Bennett