University of Nebraska system plans for modest increases in state funds the next two years

LINCOLN — The University of Nebraska system plans to request from the state increases of 3 percent and 3.7 percent over the next couple of years.

The NU Board of Regents approved that plan Friday.

State funding is a big deal every year for public colleges and universities, but disappointing state revenues over the past couple of years have made money tighter than normal. So state funding, and how to get enough, has been the consistent NU theme for months.

The proposed increases refer to the NU system’s operating budget, including salaries, health insurance, general operations and utilities and not construction money. The operating budget typically is made up of state money and tuition revenues.

Chris Kabourek, chief financial officer for NU, said the new two-year request is much lower than usual. Since 2011, those requests have averaged 6 percent a year.

NU and public higher education in general in Nebraska have faced midyear cuts twice over the past two years, the first of about $13 million for NU, the second about $11 million.

And the NU operating budget for 2018-19 — $574.7 million — is considerably lower than the $583.1 million with which the NU system started 2016-17.

$75 million plan to renovate UNL’s College of Engineering wins approval

LINCOLN — By most accounts, the  buildings of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Engineering are lacking.

One is old. One needs extensive renovation. One needs to be taken down, rebuilt and made bigger.

The NU Board of Regents on Friday took a step toward getting those improvements done by approving an early plan and budget .

Regents material said a 2015-16 facilities analysis found the College of Engineering buildings “among the worst in the entire University of Nebraska system.” That includes two campuses in Omaha, one in Kearney and one in Curtis.

NU will receive $70 million, split by the NU system and the state, and about $5.5 million in private money for the project. The building known as The Link will be torn down, rebuilt and enlarged. Nebraska Hall will undergo building code and handicap access improvements. The Scott Engineering Center will be renovated.

UNL Engineering Dean Lance Perez said the engineering college is at the bottom of the Big 10 in research funding.

“We want to build the College of Engineering that the state needs and deserves,” he said.

In other action, the regents:

» Approved a change in scope and budget for the UNL East Union renovation. The new plan would provide additional meeting and event space and would cost $28.6 million, up from the original $26.6 million. The project will be paid by various UNL sources, including athletic money, bond surplus money and designated student fees.

» Named Ken Bayles, an NU Medical Center associate vice chancellor, to serve in an interim role as the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s associate vice chancellor of research. Bayles will join several other administrators who are serving dual roles for UNO and UNMC, including Chancellor Jeffrey Gold.

» Agreed to endorse the University of Nebraska at Kearney’s bachelor of philosophy program, and UNL’s master and doctorate in geography. The state Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education has expressed concern about low enrollments in the programs. The programs have plans to increase enrollment.

» Gave the nod to the UNMC College of Dentistry’s clinic expansion at the Durham Outpatient Center in Omaha. The cost will be $2.6 million, paid with UNMC and College of Dentistry money.

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