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Now that the legislative session is over, it is time to reflect on what actually was accomplished this year and how it affects all Nebraskans. Although we balanced the budget, we did so by taking more money out of the state’s rainy day fund. While some cuts were made to the budget, the income for some state agencies actually increased. One such state agency was the University of Nebraska system.
While the Appropriations Committee cut the University’s spending by 1 percent, instead of the Governor’s recommended 4 percent, page 13 of the Independent Auditor’s Report shows that operational revenues for the University of Nebraska system have actually increased by 6 percent. So, the 1 percent decrease in state funding made by the legislature this spring means that operational revenues for the University of Nebraska system have only increased by 5 percent instead of by 6 percent.
If operational revenues have truly increased, and the Independent Auditor’s Report says they have, then why were cuts made to programs at the University of Nebraska – Kearney (UNK)? UNK is cutting three sports programs, namely baseball, golf, and tennis. It is peculiar that UNK would make the decision to cut the baseball program, especially after a recent fundraiser had raised $170,000 for the program.
The decision to make these cuts to these three sports programs was the sole decision of UNK Chancellor Douglas A. Kristensen. When University President Hank Bounds testified before the Appropriations Committee earlier this year, he was asked who would make the decisions about cutting programs. Bounds answered that each of the chancellors would make these decisions for their own schools.
UNK claims that eliminating these three sports programs will save the university $450,000 annually. But, what they haven’t considered is the fact that these 60 athletes, who would have attended UNK and played on their sports teams, would have each brought with them into the university an additional 1.2 students. Tuition costs alone (set at $7,512 for 2018-2019) for these additional 72 students would bring $540,864 into the University. So, the argument that cutting these sports programs would somehow save the university money, fails by way of simple math.
When it comes to balancing the budget at the University of Nebraska, administrators need look no further than their own administrative costs. Since 2011 administrative costs have increased 40 percent while new student enrollment has increased only 6 percent. On September 16, 2016 the Board of Regents gave University President Hank Bounds a 6 percent salary increase, which became retroactive back to July 1, 2016. In spite of the Governor’s announcement on July 16, 2016 that there should be no more salary increases, no unnecessary travel, and no new hiring, Bounds gave 3 percent salary increases to each of the chancellors in the University of Nebraska system.
So, the time has come for all concerned Nebraskans to ask Chancellor Kristensen: Why are you really cutting baseball, golf and tennis? If Kristensen won’t explain why he is cutting these programs, then perhaps it is time to ask the Regents. The Regent for District 6 is Paul R. Kenney and he can be reached at (308) 826-2507.