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UNK announces position eliminations in first budget reductions

(KSNB)
Published: Jun. 26, 2020 at 11:02 AM CDT
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The University of Nebraska at Kearney Chancellor Doug Kristensen announced today the elimination of 15 positions in an effort to meet a $2.8 million budget cut outlined and affirmed today by the University of Nebraska Board of Regents.

The positions in total represent $800,000 in state-funded salary and benefit savings, and not all are full-time or currently filled. The eliminations include five employees currently filling those positions who were notified this week of their termination in units across campus. In addition, 10 unfilled positions – or “open” lines – were eliminated.

The university will provide 90 days’ notice to the full-time employees. Under policy, they will have the opportunity to be placed in jobs that may open, for which they are qualified.

The budget reduction measures are part of a $43 million shortfall announced last week by NU President Ted Carter and are attributed to anticipated decreases in state aid and tuition revenue from the COVID-19 pandemic. The three-year budget, approved today, supports Carter’s programs on affordability and access for Nebraska students, limits spending growth to basic operations, and creates long-term opportunities to invest in campus and system-wide priorities like student success, faculty salaries, diversity and inclusion, and facility maintenance.

The UNK positions announced today for elimination include these filled positions:

• Research compliance manager

• Business technology analyst

• Office associate, Admissions

• Office/accounts assistant (.5 Academic Advising/Career Development; .5 Business/Finance)

• Programmer analyst

Also, vacant positions or portions of positions reduced:

• Library serials assistant

• Library access services associate

• Asst. director digital learning spaces

• Instructional designer

• Undergraduate admissions recruiter

• Center for Teaching Excellence

• Custodian – 3 positions

• Budget office assistant

In announcing the position-eliminations, Kristensen said other personnel on campus have been reduced as part of strategic realignments, with those funds being held or reallocated to areas of strategic priority or strengthening service within units. Several other positions that are funded by revenue (not state funds) were also eliminated.

Part of the university's losses are coming from lower enrollment rates, particularly from international students which is down about 40%. Vice Chancellor of Business and Finance Jon Watts said they are seeing solid rates for first time freshmen and graduate students.

"It's really hard to predict where we'll be in the fall but we know just on our international student population we're tracked about 40-45% down from where we normally are. In terms of first time, full-time freshmen those applications and numbers thanks to Nebraska Promise, President Carter, and Chancellor Christensen's leadership, those numbers look pretty good," Watts said.

In his announcement last week, Carter planned to present to the board a three-year budget with $43 million in permanent spending cuts, applying a $2.8 million reduction to UNK over that time frame. The percentages attributed to each fiscal year were 0.2% in 2020-21, 1.6% in 2021-22 and 2.6% in 2022-23. The percent decrease to UNK over the three-year period is 3.9%. The position reductions announced today amount to 29% of its overall cut. UNK will identify, over the next years, ways to meet the additional $2 million in state-fund reductions.

The next phase of the budget cut process will occur in the fall with the creation of a Faculty Advisory Committee, which will encourage open campus communication with the faculty regarding program staffing and viability. The FAC will provide feedback and recommendations to campus administration.

“There are few things that are more difficult than sharing the news with colleagues that we can no longer afford their position,” Kristensen said. “We have known that budget reductions are imminent, and that a long-term view is important to emerge following these challenges in a position of strength.”

UNK has approximately 781 benefit-eligible employees. Of those, 451 are considered staff (includes administration, office, service and managerial professional employees) and 330 are faculty (special appointment lecturers, tenure-track faculty, tenured faculty and deans). UNK has made budget reductions in nearly each of the last 18 years, the most visible of which was a $3.4 million budget shortfall announced in February 2018. The last time a Faculty Advisory Committee was created was in 2003.

“I’ve shared these difficult budget decisions with you many times, and I continue to tell you that a great institution like ours cannot cut its way to excellence,” Kristensen said in an email to campus. “We will not be a stronger institution without these colleagues, however, by looking at our plans, investing in areas of strength and opportunity, we will have made the best decisions for the future of UNK.”

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