Another round of budget turmoil affects Nebraska, Ohio colleges

November 27, 2023
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As financial strain continues to ripple across the higher ed landscape, below is another in a series of round-up articles of colleges and universities imposing financial cuts in recent days.

Numerous institutions, including several in the Midwest, announced their plans leading into the Thanksgiving holiday.

University of Nebraska at Lincoln

The flagship research university detailed its plan last Tuesday to cut $12 million to eliminate a structural deficit from its 2024 budget.

Logo with fractured column that says Campus Cutbacks

Illustration by Justin Morrison

The plan includes cutting nearly $3 million in administrative costs by eliminating numerous vacant positions and ending state funding of several others. Another $2 million would come from what the university calls “instructional efficiency,” including reducing course sections—and therefore funding—for adjunct instructors and student teaching assistants. About $800,000 would come from ending state support for centralized diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

And about $2.5 million would result from savings from not filling vacant faculty positions, in addition to “planned separations and retirements.”

The Lincoln Star-Journal reported that cuts to the university’s College of Arts and Sciences would mean that its state-aided budget would have fallen by 14 percent, or more than $9.5 million, since 2019.

University of Nebraska at Kearney

Another campus in the University of Nebraska System announced just before Thanksgiving that it would make a series of “strategic budget cuts” in response to a $58 million shortfall the system projects by 2025.

Officials at Kearney said they would cut 24.5 faculty positions and nine degree programs: bachelor’s degrees in business intelligence, geography, geography and geographic information sciences, a geography teaching degree, music theatre, recreation management, recreation, outdoor and event management, and theatre.

The university also imposed a hiring freeze covering 77 positions, among other cuts.

“These are undoubtedly challenging times, but we are taking decisive action to position UNK for the future,” Douglas A. Kristensen, the chancellor, said in a news release. “We have conducted a comprehensive review of our degree programs. Consequently, some programs will be phased out or restructured to better serve the evolving needs of our students and community.”

A statement released by unions at Nebraska’s public universities criticized state officials for failing to support the institutions and forcing a gutting of their budgets.

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Oklahoma Christian University

The private nonprofit university is eliminating its graduate school of theology as a part of larger budget cuts tied to enrollment declines, the Christian Chronicle reported.

The publication cited a written statement from Oklahoma Christian’s provost, Brian Starr, stating that an enrollment decline required “restructuring some areas of academics, including sunsetting the Graduate School of Theology program.”

Other affected institutions include:

Baldwin-Wallace University: The private nonprofit institution in Ohio faces a nearly $20 million budget deficit, far larger than the $3 million deficit it thought it had, Cleveland Scene reported. The student newspaper, The Exponent, has published a series of articles about the university’s deficit and its plan to merge schools, among other steps, in response.

Drake University: The Iowa private nonprofit university will face a budget deficit of $10.3 million by 2026 and needs to make cuts beyond those already imposed for the 2024 academic year, Iowa Capital Dispatch reported.

The news service linked to a draft of minutes from a Nov. 8 Faculty Senate meeting that stated: “Considering enrollment challenges across the country, … the cuts that have already been made, and the cuts we plan to make, we are at the point where we have to cut academic programs. This will start with a streamlining of the curriculum and a reduction of adjuncts and overloads.”

Lakeland Community College: The community college near Cleveland is eliminating 25 jobs on top of another 30-plus employees who accepted voluntary buyouts, WKYC reported. “These are difficult decisions, but they are necessary to balance the budget as Lakeland, along with colleges across the nation, deals with the reality of lower enrollment,” Jerrie Lee Rispoli, said in a television statement. “As stewards of the institution, the board has a responsibility to ensure the long-term sustainability of the college.”




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