Updated

One day before the University of Nebraska-Lincoln was scheduled to announce its plans to scale back academic programs in an effort to trim $8.5 million from its budget, Chancellor Ronnie Green had some good news to share.

No academic programs will be cut or scaled back for now.

"That's very good news, I'm very pleased about that," Green said. "I'm very pleased we're not in that position at this time."

UNL had sought to make $8.5 million in campus-specific cuts to go along with $30 million in broader cuts being implemented across the university system over several years.

NU system President Hank Bounds has set the goal of reducing NU's ongoing expenses by $5 million this year and $22 million next year.

Earlier this fall, Green told UNL staff the flagship campus would need to find $6 million in savings by June 30, 2019, a deficit created by the wider university system cuts and the addition of new funding priorities.

On top of that, Green asked campus leaders to find an additional $2.5 million -- roughly 1 percent of its state appropriation -- to create a cushion against future cuts as state tax receipts continue to fall below projections.

Administrators presented the Academic Planning Committee last month with $3.8 million in non-programmatic cuts, most coming through shifting certain positions or services from state aid to revenue from fees.

The proposals cut $500,000 from the Rural Futures Institute, nearly $340,000 from UNL's summer-school budget, $265,000 within the Nebraska Center for Virology by eliminating two unfilled faculty positions, and $275,000 from the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resource's utility and self-insurance budgets.

Another $4.3 million in proposed cuts were to be made public on Wednesday, including cuts to academic programs at UNL, but recently, Green said, the calculus in the university's budget had changed.

NU was expecting increases to its employees' health insurance premiums to top 10 percent in each of the next two years, but those costs only rose 5.7 percent next year.

Deeper than anticipated cuts across the system in the first year of the budget reduction process also benefited UNL's academic programs, Green said. In November, NU said it had already identified $6.5 million in cuts, more than the $5 million goal it set earlier this year.

Finally, tuition revenue rose above projections to help further alleviate pressure on the budget, Green said. The conservative estimates factored in modest enrollment growth and increases due to a 5.7 percent tuition hike set by the NU Board of Regents in May.

UNL's enrollment topped 26,000 students this year, a new record, which pushed tuition revenue over expectations.

"We made the decision late last week that we don't need to move forward at this time with any proposals of programmatic reductions," the chancellor said. "I called it an early holiday present."

While the decision to leave UNL's academic programs untouched came before Wednesday's meeting of the Academic Planning Committee, Green said the work identifying which programs could be scaled back has been done by college deans and department leaders.

The programs that would have been on the chopping block were not identified Tuesday, but should state senators issue a mid-year budget rescission when the Legislature convenes in January, Green said the foundation has been laid.

"If we need to bring forward 2 or 3 percent of our state budget as programmatic cuts, we know what we would do," he said.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7120 or cdunker@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @ChrisDunkerLJS.

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