LINCOLN — Tuition could go up about 4 percent if the Legislature doesn't agree to fund the University of Nebraska at the level recommended by Gov. Dave Heineman, a budget officer told the Board of Regents on Friday.
At the start of this year's legislative session, Heineman proposed to increase University of Nebraska funding by $62 million over the next two years. He reached an “affordability compact” with NU President J.B. Milliken that NU would freeze tuition rates if its budget were increased by that amount.
However, the Legislature's Appropriations Committee, in its preliminary budget, recommended a $36 million increase over the next two years. NU leaders said they could not promise to freeze tuition if the lower recommendation were adopted.
NU officials will plead their case to the Appropriations Committee during a budget hearing Tuesday at the State Capitol.
In discussing the issue with the regents, Milliken noted that a tuition freeze would require some cost-cutting by the university, even if the Legislature agrees to the amount proposed by Heineman. To cover its rising costs, NU had requested a 5.1 percent average annual budget increase over the next two years, while Heineman proposed a 4.2 percent average annual increase. The Appropriations Committee proposed a 2.5 percent average annual increase.
A tuition freeze for University of Nebraska students remains the goal of the Legislature, Speaker Greg Adams of York said during an appearance before the regents.
However, he said he could not yet predict whether the Legislature would reach that goal.
“That's the goal — whether we reach the goal of the number sent us by the governor, I can't say,” he said.
Budget director Chris Kabourek later told the regents that a 4 percent annual tuition increase would be required to cover the difference between the governor's recommendation and that of the Appropriations Committee.
Heineman said he remained optimistic that the Legislature would restore full funding to the university so that the tuition freeze would become reality.
“This is another situation where the priority ought to be helping Nebraska families,” he said.
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