NU regents approve 3.2 percent tuition increase; further hikes possible, depending on state funding

NU regents approve 3.2 percent tuition increase; further hikes possible, depending on state funding
World-Herald News Service

LINCOLN — The cost of going to a University of Nebraska institution for many students will rise anywhere from about $350 to $650 in 2018-19.

Tuition, fees, and room and board are set and, not surprisingly, students and parents will require more money than they needed last year. Tuition in most cases will go up 3.2 percent. But NU has said that if its state money is diminished in midyear, NU President Hank Bounds would jack up tuition further for the second semester.

Bounds said he may meet with Gov. Pete Ricketts in the fall to get a feel for state revenues and budget projections. The timing would enable another tuition increase to take place.

The NU Board of Regents approved the tuition increase Thursday.

“It’s not, I guess, that much of an increase,” University of Nebraska-Lincoln art student Olivia Hines said of the 3.2 percent hike. Hines worked Thursday afternoon at a convenience shop in the East Campus Nebraska Union.

Hines lives at home in Lincoln and still works two jobs to pay for school. “I’m doing all right, but it would be nice to not have to work so hard, because courses can be demanding,” said Hines, who will be a sophomore.

The extent of the rise in total price depends on the university, residence hall and meal plan. The regents approved room and board increases late last year. And the cost increases described above don’t include course fees and lab fees that come with certain classes and that, in a few instances, are rising more than $100 for a course.

Some students, too, will be bitten by larger tuition hikes. At the University of Nebraska at Omaha, College of Business Administration resident undergraduates will pay 6.9 percent more in tuition. And resident undergrads in UNO’s College of Information Science and Technology face a whopping 23.6 percent jump in tuition.

The regents approved the NU system’s budget Thursday. The system includes universities in Omaha, Lincoln and Kearney, and a two-year agriculture school in Curtis.

Operating expenditures will increase only 0.2 percent, from $960.6 million to $962.3 million.

NU’s total budget, which includes research grants, private money and money obtained through residence halls and parking (which must be invested back into the same areas) will be $2.64 billion, up .07 percent from $2.62 billion.

Regent Hal Daub of Omaha was the only regent of the eight to vote against the budget proposal. Daub said the sole problem he had was the provision that allows Bounds to increase tuition at midyear. That, Daub said, is the duty of the regents.

Citing three state allocation cuts over the past 14 months, Bounds said many universities would simply “hunker down” during this crisis.

But, Bounds said, NU has managed to plow ahead with large research initiatives, record enrollment, a huge new cancer center at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, booming business programs at UNL and a rocketing biomechanics program at UNO.

If the next two years financially look like the past two years, Bounds told the regents, this momentum will end. In the lemons to lemonades cliché, he said, “sometimes it’s just lemons. And that’s where I’m worried that we’re headed.”

Bounds assembled budget response teams a couple of years ago to find efficiencies and trim waste. NU says it found $22 million in savings and slashed more than 100 positions, most through attrition.

Some members of the budget response teams were so selfless, the president said, that they made recommendations that threatened their own jobs.

The NU system also has cut programs. The University of Nebraska at Kearney, for instance, eliminated its baseball and men’s golf and tennis programs. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln cut its electronics engineering program and its Center for Instructional Innovation. UNO eliminated its recreation and leisure studies program.

Regent Howard Hawks of Omaha described as “incredible” Bounds’ and NU’s work in dealing with the financial challenges.

Regent Jim Pillen of Columbus said the NU system has a solid culture in place. Pillen said NU employees want to “make this place great” and are willing to sacrifice to do it.

Pillen, who played for the Husker football team years ago, said legendary coach Tom Osborne used to say that the meaning of team is “when you give yourself up” for the greater good. That, he suggested, is happening in the NU system.