By the Numbers: State-aided Budget

Sunday, February 26, 2023 - 7:45am

As we’ve previously examined, the college’s funding comes from a variety of sources including the state-aided budget, revolving/auxiliary funds, grants and contracts and foundation funds. The largest component of our resources and the one that supports the vast majority of our faculty and staff is the state-aided budget. Today, we will review in more detail our state-aided budget and how the college uses this important resource.  

Our state-aided budget is derived from income the university receives from student tuition and appropriations from the Nebraska Legislature. These funds are currently allocated to the university units, including the College of Journalism and Mass Communications using an incremental budget model. This is a type of budgeting approach that involves making small adjustments to the previous year’s budget. At UNL, it assumes that the previous year’s budget is a good starting point and makes minor changes based primarily on salary increases.  

There has been a lot of discussion about transitioning to an incentive-based budget model. However, the university is still operating using an incremental model.  

The college’s total state-aided budget is $5,786,870. These funds are allocated to support three broad categories of expenses: salaries and wages, benefits and operating expenses. Salaries and wages is the largest category, accounting for 74% of our budget, followed by benefits at 19% and operating expenses at 7%.  

Salaries & Wages 

Our salary and wage budget supports academic administrators, faculty, staff, graduate assistants and student workers. In total, $4,266,907 is committed to employee salaries. Unsurprisingly, faculty represent our largest salary expense. Faculty account for 73.3% of our salary budget and 54% of our total state-aided budget.  

Faculty salaries are spread across all our faculty ranks. Additionally, they include faculty salary lines that are currently vacant due to faculty retirements and resignations. Vacant faculty lines are used to support temporary instruction until they are filled by newly hired faculty. Currently vacant lines will be used to support the faculty we hired this past fall to begin in August 2023.  

Please note that lecturers and lecturer/ts (commonly referred to as adjuncts) are not included in the budget. These positions are cash funded. We use the resources generated by vacant salary lines and one-time transfer from other units to support these positions. Because adjuncts are a necessary expense but are not budgeted, we must monitor our cash flow to support these positions. For additional, information on our temporary budget/cash flow, please visit 

Other salaries and wages 

Eleven percent of the college’s budget or $637,441 is committed to supporting staff salaries. Six point seven percent or $386,717 supports academic administrators.  

Graduate assistants account for 1.4% or $78,464. The college pays a standard stipend of $15,000 in year one and $15,500 in year two for graduate assistants. At this level, the college can support five graduate assistants from state-aided funds. Additional graduate assistants must be supported from grants/contracts or foundation funds.  

Student workers account for .6% of the college’s budget. The college reduced its state-aided student worker budget during the 2020 budget cuts. These funds support student ambassadors, front desk student workers and checkout room student workers.  


Benefit expenses, including payroll taxes, health insurance, life insurance and retirement contributions, account for 19% of the college’s budget. The college’s total benefits budget is $1,128,007. Health insurance is the largest benefit expense, accounting for almost half the benefits budget.  

Operating Expenses 

The college’s total operating expense budget is $391,893. During the 2020 budget cuts, the college reduced its operating expense budget and transferred as many operating expenses as possible to revolving/auxiliary or foundation funds. However, our current state-aided operating expenses are still projected to exceed our operating budget and total $415,571. This will require us to seek ways to reduce these expenses. Our operating expenses include the Big Red Business Center, our agreement with ITS for computer support services, rental fees for our copiers, self-insurance fees, phones and data port fees and equipment and software costs.  

To reduce operating expenses, the college may seek to renegotiate our agreement with ITS, reduce our phones and data ports or reduce our equipment and software costs. These options will be evaluated in the coming months for cost savings.