University of Nebraska President Bounds announces cuts to UNK, the NU system
KEARNEY — University of Nebraska President Hank Bounds announced Wednesday the first stage of cuts that will be made in response to a budget shortage across the NU system.
“We have a $49 million budget challenge before us,” Bounds said. “The good news here is that even before we knew what the approximate number would be, we started putting together a budget to meet the challenge.”
Bounds gave a vague outline of where the cuts will come from during a conference call with the media Wednesday morning, stating that the university will need to consolidate and cut to solve the shortage.
Some of the areas that will be hardest hit by the first round of budget cuts are travel, IT, human resources and facilities management, according to Bounds.
“We turned to those areas first to find every expenditure,” Bounds said. “When taken as a whole, this will impact almost every employee at the University of Nebraska.”
Bounds directly referred to the University of Nebraska at Kearney when he said the university system will also be closely examined to eliminate duplicate experts.
“We’re going to change how we leverage talent,” Bounds said, using UNK as an example. “Kearney is a small institution. We don’t have to have every type of expert sitting on the Kearney campus to do everything we’re trying to do. As we lose people, we’ll have other people sitting on other campuses who can handle issues in Kearney.”
Bounds used cybersecurity to drive home his point. While the NU system is attacked hundreds of times a day, there isn’t a need for cybersecurity experts on each campus to handle the issue.
“We want to maximize talent, not duplicate it,” Bounds said.
That means there will be fewer people doing more work, Bounds said.
“We know the areas where positions will be reduced,” Bounds said. “We are not prepared to outline numbers as of yet.”
A centralized IT department that will service all NU campuses will be created at the Lincoln campus, as will centralized facilities and HR departments. Reductions in these areas — which will encompass a combination of consolidations and cuts — may save the university about $30 million.
“Each new team will be led by one colleague who will retain their current campus position and will step up to a systemwide role,” Bounds said.
As part of the new consolidation plan, Mark Askren, UNL’s chief information officer, will oversee ONE IT — the new centralized IT department in Lincoln — which will service all the NU campuses and will save the university about $6 million.
Mark Miller, assistant vice chancellor at UNL, will oversee a new department that integrates facilities and energy management across all campuses, which will create opportunities for more cohesive and consistent practices such as standard project management software. Energy reduction efforts, already expected to save $1 million, could be expedited and expanded. The consolidation could save the university about $7 million, according to Bounds.
Maggie Witt, the current director of procurement services and strategic sourcing at UNL, will oversee procurement across the NU system, which should save another $6 million. The new universitywide team will integrate resources, talent and practices to save costs in supplier management and other areas.
UNL’s Assistant Vice Chancellor for Human Resources, Bruce Currin, will oversee HR across the NU system, which will save about $4 million. New practices include a move from monthly basic retirement enrollment to semi-annual enrollment to free up staff time and capture other savings and a reduction of printed benefits materials.
Rodney Markin, associate vice chancellor for business development at UNMC, will coordinate the activities of the new universitywide teams in facilities/energy, procurement and human resources.
The university system released a statement about the budget cuts Wednesday afternoon that further detailed the changes to be made.
“The human resources team has already worked to standardize NU’s reduction in force policy to ensure that employees are treated consistently across NU,” according to the news release. “The updates, effective Aug. 1, make standard the various protections for office/service and managerial/professional employees who lose their jobs as part of a RIF. For example, employees are now potentially eligible for reinstatement and/or re-employment for up to six months following separation. In addition, the minimum notice for RIF’d employees will be at least 30 days for office/service employees and at least 90 days for managerial/professional employees.”
NU has already increased tuition over the next two years, which will amount to the other $19 million of the $49 million shortage.
“As you know, we’ve already increased tuition of about 9 percent over the next two years. We hope that’s where it stays,” Bounds said.
To meet that $19 million tuition goal, NU will need to not only retain students but significantly grow enrollment over the next two years.
While Bounds was firm about his projections for the budget numbers and new leadership during Wednesday’s call, he was less clear about the cuts that would be made to faculty across the system as departments are consolidated to Lincoln.
“Will there be layoffs? Yes. I cannot tell you the number yet,” Bounds said. “Over the next several weeks we’ll refine those details.”
Bounds also said during the call that the university plans to save on mileage reimbursement, which is currently calculated at 53 cents a mile. Reimbursement will be slashed to 25 cents a mile, saving about $550,000 for the university system.
There are a number of other changes that will be made to help tighten the purse strings for NU. A new software purchase will be taken to the board this week, Bounds said, and there may be changes to the library consortium to help eliminate “duplicates” of expert resources across the campuses. New universitywide policies will be developed to keep more print and copy jobs on campus and to reduce individual printing and copying.
The changes will begin immediately, according to Bounds, and the university anticipates it will run through $8 million to $10 million in cash reserves as they roll out.
Bounds said that more announcements about budget cuts are expected in September, with more specifics regarding the types of strategies that will be implemented.
“We are focused on the future. We are focused on maintaining really good momentum, focused on serving Nebraska and focused on growing the state. We realize that we can’t cut our way to greatness, and we have positioned ourselves as best as we can,” Bounds said.