Video of UNK Budget Forum courtesy of UNK Communications
KEARNEY – University of Nebraska at Kearney Chancellor Doug Kristensen hosted a budget forum with faculty and staff Wednesday to outline a proactive plan to address budget challenges.
The university is addressing a budget gap of $2.68 million in 2017-18 that will increase to $3.4 million in 2018-19 resulting from reduced state appropriations, lower-than-expected tuition revenue, and increased salaries and benefits, which compound in the second year of the biennial budget.
Kristensen said that as reduction plans are finalized, UNK will protect its highest priorities – academic quality, affordable access, increasing enrollment and degree/credential attainment, and quality learning and living environments – while investing in priority initiatives that meet critical needs of Nebraska and its citizens.
To address the current $2.68 million budget gap, UNK has made one-time reductions in university and departmental funds. “We’re facing difficult decisions that will be guided by priorities laid out in our strategic plan,” Kristensen said.
Kristensen also clarified UNK’s process for addressing the more-challenging $3.4 million budget gap anticipated for 2018-19. A personnel advisory group continues to examine all open positions, since faculty and staff salaries and benefits account for 81 percent of UNK’s annual expenditures. He indicated that the hiring freeze implemented in fall 2016 has resulted in 30 positions being held, which has resulted in savings.
Currently, academic and staff leadership are comprehensively reviewing the cost-benefit of all programs, services and staffing. Reduction plans will then be reviewed by administration in November or December. In January and February of 2018, plans will be shared with the campus for feedback before recommendations are finalized and implemented.
“We are going to have to look at some strategic ways to change the way we spend and to staff us correctly. To do this, we’ve asked that everything get put on the table,” he told those in attendance.
Kristensen also indicated that UNK will continue to strategically increase staffing in areas of growth, optimize usage and functionality of existing facilities while taking those in critical condition offline, and intensify recruiting and marketing initiatives to increase enrollment.
“For example, we are looking for the next opportunity that is as successful as the unprecedented collaboration with UNMC to deliver allied health programs at UNK,” Kristensen said, referring to University of Nebraska Medical Center. The initiative is transforming health care in the region and is the driving force for a 21 percent increase in undergraduate student enrollment in health science programs this year.”
Kristensen also addressed UNK’s slight decreases in enrollment over the past few years, saying it was a challenge for all colleges and universities in Nebraska, where populations in many communities is shrinking.
“We definitely need to do things differently, and I think we will, but realize the number of high school seniors also hasn’t changed and has gone down,” Kristensen said. “The recruiting is directly, I think, related to the number of high school seniors in our home base, within 100 miles of us.”