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The University of Nebraska is an important and valuable institution in our State. I, Sen. Steve Erdman of Bayard, support the University of Nebraska insofar as they deal equitably towards students and taxpayers. In recent days, administrators at the University of Nebraska have demonstrated a complete lack of regard for student tuition and taxpayers’ dollars. Today I would like to expose how the University of Nebraska really spends its money.
Last fall the University of Nebraska hired former Nebraska State Senator, Heath Mello, to be their new chief lobbyist. Mello earns a salary of $165,000 per year. So, the University spends $165,000 per year in order to pay a lobbyist to help them get more money from the State. I believe it is wrong for any agency which gets State tax dollars to spend those tax dollars to lobby the State for even more tax dollars.
One place where the University might look to save some money comes from their own administrative expenses. In the recent past, student enrollment has gone up seven percent while administrative salaries have increased forty percent.
NU President, Hank Bounds, came to the Capitol last Wednesday in order to testify for one hour and forty minutes before the Appropriations Committee. He asked State Legislators to vote against the Governor’s proposed budget cuts of $23 million to the University. Some students, stricken by a heavy burden of student loan debt, even skipped class in order to testify at the hearing which lasted four and one-half hours.
In an attempt to coerce State Legislators, Hank Bounds and Chancellor, Ronnie Green, have proposed certain program cuts to the University’s budget. Some of these program cuts include ending bachelor’s degrees and master’s degrees programs in art history, geography and electronics engineering (bachelor’s level only), and even eliminating a baseball team at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. But these program cuts were unnecessary and do nothing more than send a shot across the bow to State Legislators.
The fact of the matter is that the University of Nebraska has plenty of money to spend. Administrators at the University of Nebraska have not dealt honestly and transparently with the public about the funds which are available for them to use. For instance, the University of Nebraska regularly maintains non-restrictive cash reserves in excess of $230 million. The University of Nebraska has maintained these non-restrictive cash reserves above $230 million for at least the past three years.
According to Nebraska State Senator, John Stinner of Gering, who is chair of the Appropriations Committee, the University of Nebraska maintains non-restrictive cash reserves in excess of $230 million dollars in order to protect their bond rating. However, the University of Nebraska could afford to spend $30 million out of its cash reserves with no change whatsoever in their bond rating. What this tells me, is that Bounds and Green care more about protecting their bond rating than they do about lowering student tuition or keeping established programs intact.