LINCOLN, Neb. (KMTV) — The University of Nebraska Board of Regents has had some tough budget votes over the last several years.
Last year, $43 million worth of cuts were made over a three-year span. Two years ago, the board hiked tuition.
This year, the Board of Regents was pleased. The budget was going up — with no major cuts — while also freezing tuition.
“I think it’s very rare, probably, for a university to have rave reviews at a budget meeting,” said Regent Elizabeth O’Connor.
That was the general sentiment in Verner Hall in Lincoln Friday. A budget was passed unanimously at just over $1 billion.
“I just want to say this budget is a win, this budget is an investment in students,” said Maeve Hemmer, Student Regent from UNO.
With the 2.5% increase, which includes no tuition hikes and a $4 million dollar increase in faculty salaries, University of Nebraska Medical Center Chancellor Dr. Jeffrey Gold said it should help attract the best.
“To recruit and retain the best and the brightest, it’s the learning environment, the research, infrastructure, the community engagement and, by the way, the economic development our state needs and will continue to need,” said Gold.
It also includes a 40-year deferred maintenance plan for university buildings, with $7 million for the next fiscal year. President Ted Carter said this will save state taxpayers $1.5 billion over the next four decades.
“University buildings are valuable state assets and, thanks to a partnership with elected leaders, we will be able to ensure that these facilities are suited for 21st-century teaching and learning,” said Carter.
“For the first time in the many years in many years of hard budgets, we think this really reflects our values and the core of our mission,” said O’Connor.
One reason NU could afford the budgets and tuition freeze is due to extra students.
While many universities saw enrollment drops due to COVID-19, the Nebraska University system saw an overall increase in students.
“That kind of sets us apart from many other universities across the nation,” Regent Chair Paul Kenney told 3 News Now.
The university also doubled down on their guarantee to undergrad students that they can graduate in four years.
The change allows them to go four and a half years, with the last semester tuition-free, if they do everything they can to graduate in four years.
“Sometimes you have some inevitable conflicts you just can’t simply get around, no matter how hard you have tried and worked at it, so we are stepping up to cover that cost,” said Bob Phares, NU Regent.
The regents also changed their by-laws, banning consensual romantic relationships between faculty and undergrad students.