NSCS faces 2% budget cut for this year; 4% next year

Non-essential faculty travel targeted for savings

Kadra Sommersted, Staff Writer

The Nebraska State College System (NSCS) is facing budget cut season.

A letter to the state colleges from Chancellor Stan Carpenter said, “The Governor released his budget recommendations yesterday (January 10), and for the NSCS, he proposed a 2 percent cut in state appropriation for the current year (FY 2017-18) and a 4 percent cut in state appropriation for next fiscal year (FY 2018-19).

In addition, enrollments declined this year, which has resulted in a loss of tuition revenue.

Finally, the NSCS will also need to cover the increased cost of our ‘core needs’ for FY 2018-19 without additional funding from the State to assist with those costs. These ‘core needs’ include items such as salary and benefit increases, utility cost increase, building opening costs, and general operating cost increases.

Marysz Rames, president of Wayne State, said that there will be a cut in state appropriations by 2 percent this year and 4 percent next fiscal year affecting funding.

“We are funded through state appropriations and tuition dollars,” said Rames.

She said those are college’s two funding sources, and that’s what the administration is focusing on right now.

“The chancellor instructed us to look at travel,” said Jay Collier, director of College Relations. “So that’s what’s happening.”

He said the chancellor directed the colleges to review travel according to parameters that he set, and people who have already paid for travel will be able to continue to go.

“The chancellor has asked us to be very conservative with our funds all year as we were looking at a potential,” said Rames. “As we were looking at the fiscal forecast in the state.”

She said that starting in January the chancellor asked them to be mindful of travel that’s connected to instruction.

“If a faculty member has to go travel to observe a student-teaching, that’s part of instruction,” said Rames. “But a staff member going on a professional development trip, that’s not occurring right now. We’ve stopped all that travel.

“We will continue to look at probably travel as one option for budget reductions,” said Rames. “But that will not affect instruction.”

She said that moving forward the college will be looking at budgets with a Budget Advisory Task Force that was put together a year ago. The group, consisting of faculty, staff, administrators and students will reconvene. Grace Black, a student representative, said, she appreciates the task force serving and coming together again to review recommendations because they have a 30-day period in which they can make decisions.

“They’ll start looking at recommendations for cuts based on… what 4 percent would mean to our state appropriation,” said Rames. “Then, ‘What does it cost us to run the institution?’”

She said that without state appropriation, a functioning institution would be in question.

“Depending on where all of this comes in, what the number ends up being,” said Rames. “We obviously are institutions of higher learning (and) we are heavy with staffing with personnel.”

She said that education happens face-to-face, or engagement online with students.

Collier said that the college was asked to review all open positions.

“We would have to take a good look at where that number is,” said Rames. “And that could mean that staff job riffs would be something we have to look at.”

She said that at this moment the administration doesn’t know the exact number because the budget is still under consideration.

“If that was to happen, we have agreements with unions,” said Rames. “And these are very proscribed approaches that you have to take. We would clearly have to follow those and would follow those steps. We don’t know what that means sitting here today.”

She said that capital expenditures—big expenditures—are not happening right now.

“It won’t really affect day-to-day,” said Collier. “We are still going to have to have the supplies we need to operate.”

He said the chancellor is worried about spending money on big products.

“Tuition is set by the Board of Trustees,” said Rames. “Chancellor Carpenter—he works with the board—so they will have to have those conversations. They’ll make the decision on what happens with tuition.”

She said that the board is most concerned with making tuition affordable for students, and that they are very passionate about it. The chancellor spoke yesterday in regards to tuition.

“He said, ‘We need to be true to supporting our students, but we know that when we increase tuition, that impacts students negatively,’” said Rames.

“Over 900 people from the three (state) colleges wrote on behalf of the important role that we play in student success,” said Rames. “And learning excellence in regional service.”

Collier said that the comments students left were awesome, and was great to see what students are saying about the college.