About 115 students are majoring, pursuing graduate degrees or getting teaching certificates in programs proposed for eventual closure at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the university said Tuesday.
That doesn’t include cuts and trims being proposed at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, the University of Nebraska at Omaha and the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
And the cuts only begin to address the NU system’s budget problems.
With a few exceptions, the proposals aren’t locked in and the picture could improve if state revenues perk up. Nevertheless, the NU system sent the message early this week that it cannot continue to take cuts in state funding without gouging academic programs. University leaders will stress the point Wednesday in its hearing before the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee.
At UNL, art history bachelor’s and master’s degree programs; geography programs at the undergraduate, master’s and doctorate level; and electronics engineering at the bachelor’s level were proposed Monday for elimination.
Hope Anderson, one of 10 undergraduate art history majors at UNL, called the proposal upsetting.
“I know I’m a rare breed to be majoring in art history,” Anderson said. “The number of classes is going to go down, and I’m worried that I’m not going to get the upper-level classes I need to get into a graduate program. I may have to study abroad to take the classes I need.”
At UNK, three men’s sports appear to be certain victims of the state funding problem and enrollment decline, a challenge that so far is unique in the NU system to UNK. The three are baseball, golf and tennis.
UNK men’s golf coach Wes Bernt invited his team to his home Monday night to talk about the news. Over pizza, Bernt and his team talked about transferring and what this means for the players’ college careers.
For now, he said, the players are focused on finishing the season strong. “We’ll have practice (Tuesday) and it’ll definitely be a different dynamic,” he said. “There’s no more building for the future anymore.”
Gov. Pete Ricketts said in an interview Tuesday that this is a period of sacrifice. Ricketts expressed no interest in raising taxes to bolster state finances.
“We’re living in times of budget restraint,” he said. “I think we all have to get together and be part of the solution here.”
Nebraska higher education, including NU, took a midyear cut a year ago. Now Ricketts proposes another midyear cut of $11.4 million for NU and a $23.3 million cut in 2018-19 over the original budget plan.
Dr. Jeffrey Gold, who oversees both the University of Nebraska Medical Center and UNO, said Tuesday that if things don’t change, the university system will have to reconsider tuition for 2018-19, which tentatively is expected to reflect a 3.2 percent hike.
“I do not know if that number is going to hold,” Gold said.
He also said that at UNMC and UNO, “differential tuition” — higher increases for big-demand programs such as information sciences or pharmacy — might be used.
State Sen. Anna Wishart of Lincoln, a member of the Appropriations Committee, suggested that some might not go along with Ricketts’ proposal.
Wishart said she is “not in favor of destructive cuts to our postsecondary institutes that have the potential of gutting critical educational programs, raising student tuition and hindering our ability to attract young people to our state.”
NU Regent Paul Kenney of Amherst said cutting programs will affect enrollment.
“We don’t really know what the next (state revenue) forecast is going to be, but there’s a lot of long-term decisions that have to be made,” Kenney said. “We’ve been worried about this for quite a while.”
Regent Hal Daub of Omaha said this is just the beginning of the process. “The regents are committed to step up to the plate to make the tough financial decisions, but we want to protect the integrity of education,” Daub said, “and not impair future availability and affordability.”