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The Nebraska Legislature has finally begun debating the State’s biennial budget. The good news is that the language contained in LB944 for Title X spending will exclude those clinics which perform abortions. Our budget ought to reflect our values. Because Nebraska is a pro-life state, it makes sense that our taxpayers should not have to fund those agencies which perform a practice that most of us consider to be immoral.
Unfortunately, when LB944 came up for debate last week on General File we never got the opportunity to talk about funding for the University of Nebraska. However, I have filed an amendment to the bill so that this will be the first topic up for debate when LB944 comes up for debate on Select File. It is time for the Legislature to have a serious discussion about how we fund the University of Nebraska system.
Although the Governor had recommended cutting state funding for the University of Nebraska by 4 percent, LB944 only cuts state funding to the University of Nebraska system by 1 percent. My amendment would restore these cuts to the Governor’s recommended amount of 4 percent.
As I said in my article last week, the University of Nebraska’s operational revenues actually increased by six percent last year. So, a 1 percent reduction in state spending to the University might seem like a big deal to University of Nebraska administrators, but not to the average taxpayer, especially when compared to some of the cuts made to other state agencies. For instance, Program 519, a program to provide homes for Nebraska’s veterans is slated to be cut by almost 17 percent in the State’s General Fund next year.
The fact of the matter is that the University of Nebraska has been spending money recklessly since 2011. For instance, according to the University of Nebraska’s own Operating Budget, the University’s total budget has grown by 23 percent since 2011 while tuition and fees have grown by 45 percent. Over that same period, spending on administrator’s salaries grew by nearly 40 percent, while student enrollment grew by less than 7 percent.
University spending over the course of the last three years has been the worst. In 2014 the University of Nebraska spent $290,256,191 on faculty salaries, but in 2017 they spent $321,693,466. That’s an increase of 10.8 percent in only three years. In 2014 the University of Nebraska spent $36,959,542 on administrators’ salaries, but in 2017 they spent $45,134,137 on administrators’ salaries. That’s an increase of 22.1 percent in just three years!
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, from 2008-2017 Nebraska ranked 4th highest in the nation in state funding for higher education. Nebraska was one of only 5 states which has increased state funding for higher education on a per-student, inflation adjusted basis. While the average state spent 16 percent less per student in 2017 than in 2008, Nebraska spent more per student. Over the past decade more than 30 states have reduced state funding per student on an inflation adjusted basis for higher education by double digits. So, we are clearly moving in the wrong direction.
The University of Nebraska spends money wastefully. When I see the University of Nebraska spending $165,000 per year on a lobbyist, and when I see them spending $370,209 on 7.5 faculty members in the Diversity Chancellor’s pool and another $2,970,392 on the Diversity Central Administration Pool, I cannot help but conclude that University spending is running out of control.
Therefore, I believe the time has come for the Legislature to finally have a serious debate about how they fund the University of Nebraska system with our tax dollars.