University of Nebraska-Lincoln proposes staff cuts to remedy $12M deficit

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Dive Brief: 

  • The University of Nebraska-Lincoln plans to cut about 30 full-time-equivalent positions and reduce funding for teaching assistants as a way to remedy a $12 million structural deficit, the flagship announced last week. 
  • The university plans to achieve more than a dozen of the reductions by eliminating vacant staff and faculty positions. The proposal also calls for reducing state-aided funding for graduate and undergraduate teaching assistants by more than $900,000. 
  • Another $800,000 in cuts would come from the university’s diversity, equity and inclusion budget. The plan would lay off three full-time-equivalent staff members and find alternatives to state funding for another four positions within its DEI office. 

Dive Insight: 

The proposal unveiled last week sheds more light on how UN-Lincoln plans to address its budget shortfall through cuts. The university’s academic planning committee is reviewing the proposal and will submit final recommendations Dec. 1. 

The UN-Lincoln has had a structural deficit for years, according to a Nov. 8 message from Rodney Bennett, the institution’s chancellor. In part, the university attributed the deficit to pandemic-induced enrollment declines and falling numbers of international students. 

Student headcounts ticked down slightly this fall at the campus. UN-Lincoln enrolled 23,600 students, slipping 0.9% from the year before

The proposal released last week doesn’t call for eliminating academic programs, but Bennett recently said further cuts may be necessary in the future. 

“We have already reduced the budget as far as we can without considering academic program eliminations,” Bennett said in his Nov. 8 message. “To that end, I have instructed university leaders to begin planning now for what future reductions may include.”

The University of Nebraska System overall is staring down a $58 million budget hole by the end of the 2025 fiscal year. System President Ted Carter released a multipronged plan this summer to remedy the shortfall, including freezing hiring for nonfaculty positions and setting a goal to rejoin the Association of American Universities, a selective organization of research institutions. 

However, one official suggested earlier this month that the cuts at UN-Lincoln could impede that goal. 

“You don’t cut your way into the AAU,” Mark Button, dean of the university’s arts and sciences college, said during an open forum Nov. 16, according to the Lincoln Journal-Star. “But that’s essentially what we’re doing.”

Other campuses within the University of Nebraska System are also struggling. 

Officials at the University of Nebraska at Kearney said earlier this month that they plan to eliminate about two dozen faculty positions and nine academic degree programs. The campus is facing a $4.3 budget shortfall.


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