Central Nebraska’s UNK finalizes $2.3 million in proposed academic cuts

By: - November 20, 2023 6:19 pm

The University of Nebraska at Kearney campus is shown. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

LINCOLN — University of Nebraska at Kearney Chancellor Doug Kristensen on Monday finalized $2.3 million in budget cuts, including 24.5 faculty positions and various degrees.

University of Nebraska President Ted Carter, at center. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

The proposed cuts will be sent to NU President Ted Carter  for final approval Dec. 1. They come as the University of Nebraska system faces a projected $58 million shortfall over the next two years. 

UNK faces an expected $4.3 million deficit, which it plans to address through $2.3 million in academic cuts and $2 million in largely administrative reductions. A previously implemented hiring freeze, including 77 full-time positions, has saved UNK about $4.1 million this academic year, according to a campus news release.

More NU budget cuts, including at UNK, are expected over the next year. UNK could utilize further recommendations from a Faculty Advisory Committee, a campus spokesperson.

“These are undoubtedly challenging times, but we are taking decisive action to position UNK for the future,” Kristensen said in a statement.

Doug Kristensen
University of Nebraska at Kearney Chancellor Doug Kristensen. (Photo courtesy of the University of Nebraska at Kearney)

Christopher Exstrom, a professor of chemistry and president of UNK’s Faculty Senate, said it has been an “exceptionally trying time as we navigate through these cuts.”

“UNK is a close-knit community — it is very difficult to see programs cut and friends and colleagues lose their jobs,” Exstrom said in an email to the Nebraska Examiner. “At the same time, we have to acknowledge the fiscal realities that we are currently facing.”

Faculty and students at UNK previously protested the initial cuts, and faculty across NU on Friday blasted state leaders for not investing more in the university.

Degree programs

Students in degree programs or areas of study slated to be eliminated will be able to complete their degrees, a UNK news release states. This includes the following degrees:

  • Business Intelligence Emphasis (BS)
  • Geography (BS/BA)
  • Geography and GIScience (BS)
  • Geography 7-12 teaching subject endorsement (BA)
  • Musical Theater (BM)
  • Recreation Management (BS)
  • Recreation Outdoor and Event Management (BS)
  • Theater (BA)

In addition, the entire theater and recreation management programs, as well as the campus geography department, will be phased out.

All programs set to be discontinued do not graduate seven degrees each year, which is a minimum performance standard of Nebraska’s Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education, according to UNK.

Other programs will be restructured to better serve UNK’s “evolving needs,” Kristensen said.

Personnel cuts

Employees whose positions are slated for elimination will be notified by May 2024 and supported in a transitionary period until May 2025, according to the release. Several roles are vacant, being vacated by retirees or occupied by people leaving UNK on their own

The 24.5 faculty eliminations are:

  • Four theater faculty.
  • Three-and-a-half English faculty.
  • Three music faculty.
  • Two faculty each in communications, cyber systems, math and statistics, and modern languages.
  • One faculty a piece in art and design, history, kinesiology and sports sciences, Montessori Early Childhood Education, philosophy, and physics and astronomy.

Earlier this month, Kristensen told the Nebraska Examiner that UNK has had to reduce its budget in 17 of the 21 years he’s been chancellor. It’s partly because of UNK’s lean position that UNK had to dive into academics this time around in Kristensen’s 22nd year.

“While these reductions are a significant step, we are actively exploring additional cost-saving measures to ensure the long-term sustainability of our institution,” Kristensen said in his Monday statement. 


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Zach Wendling
Zach Wendling

Zach Wendling recently graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a double major in journalism and political science. He has interned for The Hill and The News Station in Washington, D.C. He reported for the Nebraska News Service and The Daily Nebraskan before joining the Nebraska Examiner staff as an intern.