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The University of Nebraska added another $4 million worth of items to its running list of proposed budget cuts Tuesday as it seeks to close a shortfall of $49 million.

The announcement included more than 70 specific items across eight nonacademic areas — primarily travel, public relations, printing and financial operations — to be implemented in coming months.

NU announced $25 million in potential cuts last month.

Perhaps the biggest proposal unveiled Tuesday is a 90 percent reduction in reimbursements for cellphone and internet use by university employees. That move alone is expected to create $1.1 million in savings, said NU spokeswoman Melissa Lee said.

Other proposed changes:

* The university will require employees to make travel arrangements online, rather than over the phone, to save roughly $17 per transaction. Just 22 percent of NU employees are currently booking travel online.

* Employees will also be required to use a university credit card, allowing NU to earn a 1.65 percent rebate on approved travel expenses.

* The university plans to consolidate travel planning to a single agency in order to secure higher rebates.

* Along with generally moving to electronic distribution of materials across the system, NU plans to create one systemwide printing and copying operation with single locations in Lincoln, Omaha and Kearney.

Some potential changes — such as ending the practice of paying one-quarter of employees' unused sick time upon retirement, and adjusting the maximum number of vacation days that can be maintained — will require the approval of the NU Board of Regents.

And other moves — like streamlining the university's per-diem reimbursement procedures to reduce “time and resources spent preparing, processing, administering, and auditing travel receipts” — would require the Legislature to change state law.

Most of the overall $49 million in cuts are expected to come from consolidating or eliminating certain nonacademic programs across the university system, and NU administrators expect 100 positions will be terminated either through attrition or reductions in force once other cost-reduction strategies have been exhausted.

Among the broad initiatives announced in August are those aimed at reducing costs in areas such as human resources, information technology, facilities and energy and procurement, through strategies like centralization and eliminating duplicative efforts.

Many of the potential cuts will require further study, such as those regarding human resources and public relations.

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No individual positions have been identified yet for immediate cuts or elimination through attrition, but NU said Tuesday that the broader cuts “will impact virtually all employees in some way.”

The reduction in cellphone and internet reimbursements is a clear example.

Other Big Ten schools have followed similar paths regarding such reimbursements.

The University of Minnesota stopped reimbursing employees for cellphones in 2012 if they didn't need access to a device to perform their specific duties. Penn State did the same in 2016, saving about $1.2 million in direct and indirect costs, according to its website.

The policy shift puts NU in line with other governmental bodies like Lincoln Public Schools, which provides work cellphones to school nurses, facilities and maintenance staff, and others deemed “on call,” according to Eric Weber, associate superintendent for human resources.

NU earlier this summer cut its mileage reimbursement rate for employees who use their own vehicles to travel between facilities from the 53.5 cents per mile set by the Nebraska Department of Administrative Services to 25 cents per mile in an effort to save $550,000.

Marjorie Kostelnik, a former dean of UNL’s College of Education and Human Sciences tapped to implement the budget cuts, said many of the strategies presented Tuesday have yet to be finalized.

The university’s budget response teams will engage with faculty, staff and students about implementing specific plans, NU said, while additional teams in safety, parking, research services and institutional research have also been convened to look for savings.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7120 or

On Twitter @ChrisDunkerLJS.


Higher education reporter

Chris Dunker covers higher education, state government and the intersection of both.

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