Nebraska regents to meet next week regarding budget, Husker Athletics oversight

By: - June 15, 2023 9:00 am

The University of Nebraska Board of Regents and NU President Ted Carter will meet next week in Varner Hall on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s East Campus. (Courtesy of the University of Nebraska)

LINCOLN — The University of Nebraska Board of Regents next week will consider raising tuition rates by 3.5% and shifting oversight of Husker Athletics. 

The tuition increase follows almost $11 million in approved cuts at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, with more cuts expected in the next couple of years. Under current projections, NU will face a nearly $58 million shortfall through the 2024-25 fiscal year. 

University of Nebraska President Ted Carter addresses the NU Board of Regents on May 31, in Lincoln, Neb. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

The June 22 meeting agenda states that NU is “not alone in facing these challenges” with a task to separate NU from other campuses in how it responds.

“Most of our peers in the Big Ten and across the country are navigating similar headwinds as costs rise, revenue sources dwindle, and public narratives around the value of higher education shift,” the agenda states.

NU President Ted Carter and Chris Kabourek, senior vice president and chief financial officer for NU, will provide another update to the board of the challenges the university is facing.

A spokesperson said the presentation will address larger challenges beyond the budget, including how NU can be more competitive in areas such as research and enrollment. 

Operating budget

The 2023-24 operating budget has three major components, Kabourek said: state funding, tuition and salaries.

Chris Kabourek, senior vice president and chief financial officer for the University of Nebraska, details the NU system’s budget system on May 31, in Lincoln, Neb. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

“Those are the big levers we have to pull and manage to make this all work,” he told the Nebraska Examiner.

The Nebraska Legislature approved a 2.5% increase in state funding — a middle ground between Gov. Jim Pillen’s recommended 2% increase and NU’s requested 3% increase. Now, the university is expecting “muted” funding, which Kabourek described as growth not keeping up with inflation.

Inflation is about 5% this year, and the difference in state funding, Kabourek said, is “just a gap that has to be filled through some other means.”

NU plans to implement $27 million in permanent state-aided spending cuts as a result.

Enrollment across NU has also struggled, but Carter has indicated that affordability and accessibility remain top priorities. The budget states that tuition increases are projected moving forward, although conversations remain open depending on university needs.

The proposed budget also includes a 3% merit salary pool for faculty and staff.

Husker Athletics oversight

Regents Tim Clare of Lincoln and Robert Schafer of Fremont, the chair and vice chair of the board, are leading a proposal to shift oversight of Husker Athletics at UNL from the campus chancellor to NU system president.

University of Nebraska Regent Tim Clare of Lincoln, the chair of the board, at left, presides over the Board of Regents on May 31, in Lincoln, Neb. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green is planning to retire at the end of the month, and the change would fall upon NU President Ted Carter.

Clare told the Examiner last month that intercollegiate athletics is “changing daily” and “in search of a leader who can help them navigate these issues.”

“It makes sense for the president of the university system, with a direct line to the Board of Regents, to have oversight of the program that serves as the front door to the university for so many Nebraskans,” Clare and Schafer said in a joint May statement.

Some UNL faculty have expressed concern about the proposal, such as how it could impact UNL’s budget and its position on the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors.

Rodney Bennett candidacy

While not included on the June 22 meeting agenda, regents are also likely to consider the priority candidacy of Rodney Bennett for UNL chancellor. 

Rodney Bennett, priority candidate for chancellor of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, speaks at a public forum Friday, June 9, 2023, in Lincoln, Neb. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

State law requires a 30-day public review period before Carter can advance Bennett’s appointment. That review period ends Wednesday, and the meeting agenda could be amended that day, if Carter deems appropriate, to include Bennett’s candidacy. Bennett, the former University of Southern Mississippi president, would be the first person of color in the UNL chancellor role.

Clare told the Examiner that conversations about the Husker Athletics proposal had been going on informally for many months, “well before” the candidacy of Rodney Bennett for UNL chancellor The issue is about the university’s position, Clare said, not about specific people.

Bennett attended nearly 20 public forums on campus last week where he detailed his experience with severe budget cuts at Southern Miss. He also explained how he would approach research and economic development; diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives; and student success.

“You all are the fundamental reason I’m here,” Bennett told students at a June 8 forum. “My work is centered around your success.”

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Zach Wendling
Zach Wendling

Zach rejoins the Nebraska Examiner after studying abroad in Antigua, Guatemala, following a yearlong Examiner internship. His coverage focus areas have included politics and government, health and well-being and higher education.