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August 20, 2014

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Sandoval suggests ‘significantly higher’ fees for higher ed students

Brian Sandoval

Brian Sandoval

Gov. Brian Sandoval has suggested that students pay “significantly higher fees” to attend Nevada colleges and universities, higher education officials said Wednesday.

Chancellor Dan Klaich and Board of Regents Chairman James Dean Leavitt met with the governor and his senior staff in Carson City. They were unable to share many details of the conversation, including how large a budget cut Sandoval will recommend.

“The reality we’re facing as a state and a system of higher education is bleak,” Leavitt said. “The meeting was cordial. But we were not shy. We told him about the sustained, difficult, deep cuts we’ve suffered over the past two sessions. We told him further cuts would cause irreparable damage to the system.”

Leavitt said students “should expect significantly higher fees.” He wouldn’t be more specific, saying “significant is scary enough.”

Sandoval ran on a platform of balancing the state’s budget by not raising taxes or fees. He argued that families and businesses cannot afford to pay more in this economy.

Heidi Gansert, Sandoval’s chief of staff, said Nevada institutions have low tuition rates compared to similar colleges and universities.

“I think it’s important we have access to higher education, which we do, but look at how Nevada compares to other universities. Our tuition is rather low,” she said.

Sandoval also believes that any increase in tuition should be coupled with scholarship programs or increased access for students to get federal aid, she said.

Klaich said the governor’s administration has not come to a final decision about how big a cut higher education will take but said Sandoval suggested increasing fees “without affecting access to institutions.”

Sandoval will release his budget on Jan. 24. The Legislature has 120 days to pass the budget, though any tuition increase is likely to have to be passed by the Board of Regents, which is independently elected.

Sandoval’s predecessor, Gov. Jim Gibbons, proposed a 37 percent cut to higher education in 2009, which was rejected by lawmakers. Gibbons’ staff also pointed out that the higher education system could offset those cuts by increasing tuition and fees. The board of regents did increase fees in 2009.

Average in-state tuition is about $5,600 per year for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and University of Nevada, Reno, excluding books, room and board, lab fees and other costs, according to a higher education spokesman. Average tuition for the College of Southern Nevada is $2,243.

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