Higher education officials in Nebraska expect midyear cuts of state money won’t be necessary early next year.
Because of this, University of Nebraska President Hank Bounds has said he won’t have to use a rare midyear tuition increase this school year to make up for lagging state money.
Public higher education in Nebraska has endured midyear state funding cuts over each of the past two budget years because of weak state finances. State funding of college operating budgets has been challenged the past few years in Kansas, Iowa and many other states. The struggling farm economy has played a role.
Thomas Harnisch of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities said that in more than a dozen states, including Iowa, per-student state funding for public higher education has declined by more than 25 percent since 2008.
State Sen. John Stinner of Gering said the picture looks better for higher education in Nebraska than it has in the recent past. “Cuts?” Stinner said. “It’s very, very doubtful.”
A spokesman for Gov. Pete Ricketts said in an email:
“In the past two fiscal years, the governor withheld a small portion of allotments from nearly every agency in order to allow flexibility for the Legislature to reduce budgets due to reduced revenues. With the current state revenue projections, the governor has no intentions to reduce allotments in the current fiscal year.”
Nebraska received positive news in October from the state’s economic forecasting board. The board raised its expectation for state revenue by $69 million to $4.8 billion. The increase resulted mainly from a bump in revenue collected from corporate and individual income taxes.
Bounds said that Ricketts’ office “has let us know that there are no plans to hold back appropriations to the university in 2018-19.”
Greg Adams, head of the Nebraska Community College Association, said he hasn’t talked with Ricketts’ office, and “I’m not privy to all the numbers.”
But Adams said he is encouraged that midyear cuts won’t be needed after the October revenue projection. “At least it’s positive,” Adams said, “and that’s what I wanted to see and what our colleges wanted to see.”
The Nebraska State College System office (representing Wayne, Peru and Chadron State Colleges) said it hopes that state revenues remain strong and trusts that midyear cuts won’t be needed.
The Iowa Board of Regents’ universities had to trim $20.8 million in the middle of the year in 2016-17 and $11 million in 2017-18. Spokesman Josh Lehman said he hasn’t heard whether a midyear cut will be necessary in 2018-19.
The NU system, with universities in Omaha, Lincoln and Kearney, trimmed $13 million at midyear in 2016-17 and about $11 million the next year.
Even though there hasn’t been a midyear cut in 2018-19, there were reductions from the original appropriations set before the fiscal year started, said Michael Baumgartner, head of the Nebraska Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education.
NU’s appropriation of $574.7 million, for instance, was about $6 million less than the amount first set by the Legislature.