LINCOLN, Neb. — University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Harvey Perlman hinted Thursday that looming state budget woes could spell painful cuts for the school, a prospect he compared to "lingchi," a form of Chinese torture known as "death from a thousand cuts."
During his annual "State of the University" address at the Lied Center for Performing Arts in Lincoln, Perlman said he expects the university to be asked to cut its budget next year – for the eighth time in the 11 years he has served as chancellor.
"It is true that throughout this period, we have made significant progress," Perlman said. "However, I do not think a university can constantly cut its way to greatness. Lingchi is not a recipe for success."
Nebraska legislative committees are meeting this year to help identify state-funded programs, such as the university, that could see their budgets reduced by the full Legislature when it convenes next year. The committees are supposed to identify cuts totaling 10 percent of state general-fund appropriations for all agencies under their purview so lawmakers have options when they face what could be a $680 million budget deficit.
Like other state-funded agencies, the university has already made cuts to help offset the worst state budget crisis in recent memory. It didn't get an overall funding increase this year, nor did it receive one for next year; adjusting for inflation, it gets less money from state government than it did a decade ago.
Funding problems over the past decade have prompted widespread reductions of university programs.
"We can neither be oblivious to nor discouraged by our economic circumstances," Perlman said. "We must continue to find creative ways to advance the mission of the university with fewer resources or to generate more revenue. We must explore every way of extracting dollars from peripheral or support programs to invest in our priorities."
Perlman also outlined the university's priorities as the institution looks to the future, including undergraduate education, continuing to grow enrollment and fostering research.
The university's recent switch to the Big Ten Conference played into Perlman's forecast for UNL. Perlman said he hoped the university's Big Ten status would further encourage growth in enrollment, but also hinted that UNL must catch up to other Big Ten members in federal research funding.
UNL enters the Big Ten near the bottom of member schools in federal grants.
"If we are to close the gap with our new Big Ten colleagues, we will need a major effort from every college," Perlman said. "For disciplines that have the potential for securing external grants to fund research projects, our expectations have to be for a high level of competitive success."