- Associated Press - Sunday, July 20, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - The University of Nebraska plans to ask lawmakers to approve a 5 percent increase in state aid next year to help pay for key initiatives.

The Board of Regents approved a budget request for $568 million in 2015-2016 and $600 million in 2016-2017, the Lincoln Journal Star reported (http://bit.ly/1n5Ibf8).

This coming school year the University of Nebraska will receive $540 million in state tax money. That accounts for roughly 62 percent of NU’s publicly funded $864 million budget.

Interim University President James Linder said the additional funding to support programs that will help keep NU and the state economically competitive.

University leaders have identified programs in engineering, information sciences, health care, national security and rural development as priorities.

Roughly $20 million of the requested increase would strengthen those key programs at the university’s four campuses across the state.

The university also wants to use $20 million to strategically recruit and retain top faculty and staff and to help low-income students afford college.

Chris Kabourek, assistant vice president and director for budgeting and planning, said the additional state aid will help keep tuition affordable at the university. But he said officials are also working to limit expenses wherever possible.

“State support obviously has a huge impact on affordability - it’s probably the key variable in ensuring that accessible, affordable public education,” Kabourek said.

The request for a 5 percent budget increase doesn’t include raises for university employees because those are determined later once contracts are negotiated with employee unions. So the request for state aid could grow.

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com

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