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October 24, 2014

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Chancellor pushes back on proposed cuts to higher education

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Chancellor Dan Klaich

Nevada System of Higher Education Chancellor Dan Klaich pushed back today against Gov.-elect Brian Sandoval's preliminary budget plans, which assume a $175 million cut to the higher education system.

"Is $175 million the current state of the negotiations," Klaich asked. "No, it is not."

Sandoval last week released a statement that the state needed to find $1.2 billion in additional cuts. But that assumed the Legislature would approve a 10 percent cut to state spending, including higher education. The Las Vegas Sun on Sunday said a more realistic estimate of the deficit is $2.2 billion, though Democratic Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford told the Sun's Jon Ralston today it was more like $2.7 billion.

Regardless, advocates for state services say the Sandoval team should not assume a 10 percent cut, including for higher education.

Klaich said the universities and colleges would have to play a key role in economic development and diversifying the economy.

"I think the state has called upon higher education to help get us out of this economic crisis we're in, to diversify the economy. We can’t realistically be expected to do that if budgets continue to be cut," Klaich said. "I think the budget cutting has to stop now."

He also worried about higher education's share of the additional $1.2 billion cut and noted that it assumed reduced funding for many higher education employees would be extended.

Higher education, which is governed by a separately elected Board of Regents decided earlier this year to ignore Gov. Jim Gibbons' request to prepare for a 10 percent budget cut. Instead, they passed a budget that increased spending. All of that is dependent on how much money the legislature plans to allocate.

Klaich said the board was being responsible.

"I'm sure every one of our presidents is managing to the possibility of the existing cuts," he said. "We're not naive to the political reality. The fact is, these cuts are not benign... The fact is, we're not going to start the process on a 'Gee, this might be a number.'"

He said a cut of $175 million would mean increased student fees, reduced programs and layoffs at institutions.

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