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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (March 8, 1976)
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Editor's note: In the flurry of questions surrounding
the issue of educational quality at NU, Daily Nebraskan
reporter Dick Piersol interviewed Gov. J. James Exon
Thursday. Exon's remarks, edited because of space limita
tions, follow. '
DN: How do you see the differing roles of JJNO (Univer
sity of Nebraska at Omaha) and UNL to th University
of Nebraska? '
Exon: Well, I think one of the greatest things we ever did
was when the two fine teaching institutions got together.
I think there was a need for that.
There still is a latent feeling on the UNL campus that it
was a great mistake. The education of the students has not
been properly protected because of the overlapping and
unnecessary expenditure for administration, and in some
We have now come to the place in Nebraska where it is
generally assumed that we have two universities: one in
Lincoln and one in Omaha.
DN: Can you give us some examples of duplication and
Exon: Statistics indicate the general overall situation.
The man sitting behind this desk has been the greatest
governor that ever served in this state on my support for
higher education. That has not been recognized by the
administrators, the regents, certainly ndt the majority of
the faculty and probably a very small percentage of the
students. Because all of those people are spoon fed, with a
highly developed, veiy sophisticated public relations de
partments of the various university campuses.
. If you'll go back to the 1969-70 budget, the amount of
general funds-taxpayers money -has risen from 1969-70,
$37.5 million to this current year, 1975-76, $77 million.
That's a 105 per cent increase.
During that same time, we had generally static enroll
ment. Also in that same period we have enriched full time
equivalent faculty numbers by 29 per cent, administra
tion by 120 per ccat and overall employment at the uni
versity by 44 per cent.
DN: Do you believe that the quality of education, as
(Utica) Sen. (Douglas) Bereuter suggests, is declining at
UNL? He says he's had a lot of phone calls and letters sup
porting what he is trying to do and no adverse reactions. '
Exon:sWell, that isn't what the people who talk to me say.
You know, Sen. Bereuter is a university professor himself.
I don't believe, frankly, that the people he represents
; in Seward and York counties would be particularly im-
pressed with Sen Bereuter spending all of his time spend
, ing more money on the university than he is in attempting
' to curtail expenditures and keep taxes in line.
DN: So, do you not agree that the quality of education is
declining at UNL?
Exon: 1 don't. I've heard that for six years, since I've been
I'm very weary, and that's an understatement, of
administrators, the (NU) Board of Regents and the faculty
running down the University of Nebraska system. The
teams that I've always played on recognized their short
comings. I don't think we get very far saying we're not a
top-notch learning institution.
If the quality of teaching is down at the university,
it would seem to me that those who are responsible for
running that system, starting out with the regents, would
have to concede that they've done a very poor job indeed.
There is absolutely no need for any increase in tuition
at the University of Nebraska anywhere, if they would ac
cept the 9.2 per cent general fund Increase I recommend
ed, if they would do a better job obtaining federal grants
and if they would do a better job raising revenue from
their own sources, including the (University of Nebraska)
And if they would use somewhere between $2 million
and $3 million that we know they have rattling around in
their different cash funds somewhere.
' We recommended $84.2 million general funds, and
whatever you can raise beyond that, go ahead.
Maybe, just maybe, we should go along with what the
university administrators have proposed. They proposed
that we set a figure of 25 per cent of costs that we should
charge to tuition and just tie that' in ,with every future
Basically the students at UNO are paying at or slight
ly over 25 per cent of their education cost. It's down
around 21 or 22 per cent at UNL.
DN: Do you intend to line-item veto some parts of the
university budget If and when the Legislature passes it as
It now stands, with the Bereuter amendments?
Exon: Right on! Right on, man!
DN: And (Fremont) Sen. E. Thome Johnson's additions
to the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources?
Exon: Yes! Everything! We're going to have a knock
down drag out on the university budget this year. And I
would predict that probably when it i all over, the one
knocked down and drug over will be the governor. But
I'm still going to be there.
DN: Right now, a student carrying IS hours, an average
full-time load, Is paying more tuition and fees than at
any school in the Big 8 Conference.
Exon: Well, okay, I'll write that down. Why are they pay
ing so much student fees, I think they are second in tui
tion. I don't have anything to do with setting student fees.
How come student fees are so high?
With what's happened in the budget committee,
budget committee whose majority Is ownex!; jack, stock
mi barrel, by the university, because of their lobbying
pressure, unlimited amount of money that they spend
entertairJug state senators all the way from football
tickets to fancy dinners, as I said earlier, I'm somewhat
DN: We have some figures from the U.S. Department of
Commerce arid UNL business research that personal
income in the state is growing not only beyond the
national average but beyond the plains states on the aver
age, that overall business and economic activity is up
about twice as much as the national average from 1968
" and 1965 and the unemployment rate is a little over half
of the national rate.
Exon: That's not right.
DN: What is it?
Exon: We just went up to over 6 per cent unemployment
rate in Nebraska.
DN: Do you believe that the state of Nebraska's economy
is in the position right now that the people of this state
can afford one quality major university?
Exon: I certainly do. Generally speaking we're better off
in Nebraska and I certainly agree that Nebraska has done
I do not agree with (NU) President (D.B.) Varner and I
would say that 75 per cent of the people of this state do
not agree with President Varner that we can afford to
finance the university system as high as he wants to
Now, the difference is President Varner says that if you
don't follow my recommendations you don't have a
quality institution. I say that we have a quality institution
now; we're going to have a quality institution in the
DN: Do you want to cut taxes two per cent?
Exon: Yes, I do.
DN: Do you think that is possible with the university's
budget the way it is?
Exon: No.no way.
DN: What would happen?
Exon: Well, the best we could do maybe would be to hold
the line on taxes at two-and-one half per cent sales and 15
on income tax.
DN: Well, the university seems to rear its head.
Exon: Well, the university rears its head because aside
from about 43 per cent of every dollar the state collects
from sales and income taxes and what other sources we
have goes back to, right back to subdivisions of state
government and the next biggest funding thing we have
basically, of course is a single item, is the university
system, which I think is around 23 per cent of every
dollar that is collected. So, it's a big piece of the pie.
DN: In this year's major budget recommendation did you
cut your continuation budget for the university by three
DN: Not in accordance with the three per cent cut you
didn't get last fall in the Special Session?
Exon: No, I didn't penalize them for that. Again, the uni
versity was able to escape that three per cent cut we had
to go through last year.
No, there isn't anything particularly magic about the
9.2 per cent increase from $77 million to $84 million.
Except to prove that I heard on some station the other
night that the governor provided to hold the line on the
budget. Well, to hold the line, I think would have been the
$77 million. The 9.2 per cent increase that I recommend
ed to the university system would probably be In the
upper half, of the governor's recommendations in the
United States this year. This is from the Chronicle of
Higher Education. "Governor's pushing Austere Budgets,
State Colleges and Universities Effected, Era of Limited
Resources is Forcast." New Jersey's state colleges and uni
versities thought they were in trouble last year. State
appropriation for higher education had risen only four per
cent in two years. In many states, higher education does
not appear to be a high priority product. The governor of
Iowa is recommending, I think, a 13 per cent (increase) or
something like that. The legislature is cutting it down.
Kansas is about 13 and they're supposed to be cutting
that down. Missouri is in great trouble, I guess, and I think
the governor down there recommended a very small in
crease. Another nationally recognized publication has
come out and clearly shows that since 1973, Nebraska was
somewhere between third and fifth in the nation in the
state's of percentage of increase for higher education,
DN: There's a Kansas University study of 23 institutions
In the country . . .
Exon: I'm familiar with that. That's the one Dr. Frank
Eldridge (Faculty Senate president) comes out with. The
man who wants to have a labor union to represent him
and others who aren't getting enough money. He showed
that In a study of 23 schools, Nebraska ranked, where did
we rank? Twenty-third.
DN: In tvenge professor's salary.
Exon: Can you tell me what universities those were?
DN: University of Pennsylvania was first. Soma of them
were private sod tome of them were public.
Exon: Well that (inclusion of private schools) would be
one criticism of it. The other criticism of it I would think
would be that if Frank Eldridge or anyone else who is
employed by the university thinks that despite the excel
lent economy we have in Nebraska that a state with a
million and a half people is going to be able to afford
as much in dollars as many of the more wealthy states
then I say that he is taking very unfair advantage of the
situation and they're trying to place figures In a realm
where they do not properly belong.
If we would take the six per ceni Inflation rats and add
that on to the $77 million and then if we were to add on
$7 million or lets take the $8 million figure that President
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in 1 1 n" IB A
Photo by Tad Kirk
Nebraska Gov. James J. Exon
Varner is using, what figure would we come up to for
what the maximum funding of where the university
should be for 76-77? It is going to be somewhere in the
neighborhood of $87 million or $88 million. The budget
committee is already at $95 million for the University of
Nebraska. I would ask if President Varner would be happy
to settle for $7 million or $8 million plus the six per cent
inflation factor? That would be far below what his people
are down here lobbying and pushing for.on the legislative
DN: We'd like an idea of what you think are the biggest
faults of the university and where they are.
Exon: In the fust place, ! think faculty salaries are very
important. And I would concede from what I figure out
of all the figures I have that our faculty are certainly not
paid in comparison with the top school in the Big 8.
They're probably somewhere in the third level, in the
third place in the Big 8.
We should remember that increased dollar expenditure!
do not guarantee increased knowledge on the part of the
student body. Somehow we have come to the situation to
believe that the more money you spend the better educa-.
tion you have.
But I wonder if it isn't more a matter of how you ad
minister funds. This is what the faculty should be asking.
This is what the student body should be asking if they are
really interested in quality education. In my opinion, the
central core of any university, I like to think of it as a per
pendicular building, may be like the state capitol building,
that is teaching and research. Now that has to be what i
university is for. It's nice to have football teams and all
those kinds of things, but when you're looking at a uni
versity, you're looking at a central core which is teaching
and research. 1 believe that what has happened to the Uni
versity of Nebraska is that that central core has been
WfakfrtAf rmU.ha ( linn' tttinti- !' pVtimhlirlO and
falling, but it has been weakened) by a horizontal spread
of the university in a whole series of areas. The money is
going in, I just think there has not been enough attention
paid to the maintenance of the central core at the expense
of proliferating programs all over the lot.
DN: Do you think the proliferation then has been in favor
of the administration?
Exon: And programs that I think do not have a high
DN: Like what?
Exon: I'll not mention any programs at the present time
but I think you can look sround and find what they are. I
don t have all the answers on that because I'm not a uni
versity administrator. All that I look at is the total
amount of money going in, which has been more than
adequate. I question whether or not the money that was
Erovided was properly used,
N : Do you think some of this mlgSsJ fee made up by both
yoUrJ5 n and th budget committee's plan now to pro
vide higher non-tax fund cc&Jnsi sad let the adminlstrs- .
Exon: I agree. IVe been plugging for the last two or three
years for more lump sum spending. I think' the regents are
elected by the people and they hire administrators to run
Sf univertity ytem and if wo tie their hands I don't
think we can operate. But I think that is juat one of the
problems. That isn't the main problem as I see it among
all of these things we're going through. I wish peopto
w?.v. look at the amount of money that has gone
into the University of Nebraska system and ask questions
about how that money is being spent.
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