University of Nebraska system plans 3.2 percent tuition increase

LINCOLN — Like a lot of things, the cost of going to the University of Nebraska’s institutions is rising.

NU administrators in Varner Hall in Lincoln recommend a 3.2 percent increase in tuition for 2018-19. That’s $225 more for the school year at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, for instance, if a student takes 15 credit hours over each of two semesters.

Resident undergraduates at UNL would pay $7,350 in tuition for 30 credit hours, and out-of-state undergraduates would be charged significantly more — $23,145 for 30 credit hours.

And that doesn’t include mandatory student fees, room and board, entertainment, that gift for Granny or Bongo the bulldog’s unanticipated trip to the vet.

The NU Board of Regents, which oversees campuses in Omaha, Lincoln, Kearney and Curtis, will most likely approve the increase next Thursday in Lincoln. They foresaw a 3.2 percent rise in tuition last year for 2018-19. And that increase will remain in place as long as NU’s state aid isn’t decreased in the middle of the year.

Resident undergraduate tuition for the 2018-19 school year

Tuition is rising 3.2 percent at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, as well.

Institution Annual cost (based on 30 credits per year) Increase over 2017-18
University of Nebraska-Lincoln $7,350 $225
University of Nebraska at Omaha $6,697.50 $210
University of Nebraska at Kearney $5,940 $187.50

University of Nebraska-Lincoln resident undergraduate tuition rates

Year Rate (based on 30 credits per year) Percent increase
2018-19 $7,350 3.2
2017-18 $7,125 5.5
2016-17 $6,758 2.5
2015-16 $6,593 1.8
2014-15 $6,480 0

The NU system went to work early on asking state leaders not to slice their state money in the middle of the next school year. Chris Kabourek, interim chief finance officer for the NU system, said Thursday that a midyear slash of state money would result in NU having to ratchet up tuition for second semester. This hasn’t been done in more than 20 years, Kabourek said.

NU and higher education in general have endured cuts three times over the past 16 months. The first to the NU system was an unexpected midyear chop of $13 million in early 2017.

The second was a midyear cut of about $11 million this year. And Kabourek said NU took about a $6 million trim to its base budget this year, as well.

Kabourek said NU is “pretty close to squeezing out all the fat that we can.” Kabourek said NU President Hank Bounds expects to discuss the status of Nebraska revenue this fall with Gov. Pete Ricketts. That would give NU time to raise tuition for the second semester if revenue continues to be off.

The Governor’s Office said Thursday that revenue so far is $43 million better than projections this fiscal year, which is good news.

NU’s operating budget mainly comes from tuition and state money. That operating budget is expected to be flat in 2018-19 at about $962 million.

“Our options are limited, our flexibility is limited,” Kabourek said. More cuts will hurt quality and increase tuition, he said.

Operating budget for the NU system

Source: University of Nebraska

Year Operating budget Percent increase
2018-19 $962.3 million 0.2
2017-18 $960.6 million 2.1
2016-17 $941 million 4.3
2015-16 $902.8 million 4.4
2014-15 $864.7 million 4.3

Those cuts have meant people and programs have been eliminated. The University of Nebraska at Kearney dropped its baseball, men’s tennis and men’s golf programs.

UNL eliminated its electrical engineering bachelor’s program and its Center for Instructional Innovation. The University of Nebraska Medical Center trimmed 3.5 faculty positions from its College of Medicine. The University of Nebraska at Omaha eliminated its recreation and leisure studies program.

Kabourek said the budget response teams Bounds formed to find efficiencies trimmed $22 million, including more than 100 positions (only about 15 of those were actual employees, with the remainder being attrition and not filling other openings).

Kabourek said if NU keeps getting cut, “a day of reckoning” will come.

“We want all Nebraskans to hear this message.”