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January 30, 2015

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Regents approve plan to vary budget cut sizes by institution

Under a plan the Board of Regents approved Friday, some public higher education institutions could have to cut a larger percentage of their state-funded budgets than others in the next biennium.

Regents will send their proposal to the governor as a recommendation on how to fund higher education if the higher education system has to cut 14 percent of its budget.

Instead of slashing each institution's budget by 14 percent, the regents' proposal takes into account enrollment and other factors in deciding how much to cut.

The College of Southern Nevada's budget reduction would be 6.2 percent in the 2009-10 fiscal year while UNLV's cut would be 17.8 percent. The plan assumes that the higher education system will have about $587 million per year in the next biennium -- a 14 percent reduction from the amount budgeted this fiscal year before any cuts took place -- and apportions that money using the state's higher education funding formula.

Under the formula, schools receive more money for higher enrollments. Research universities get more money per student than community colleges.

The regents' proposal inputs 2008-09 enrollments into the funding formula. Dan Klaich, the higher education system's executive vice chancellor, said regents were not showing unjust favoritism to any institution, but using a "common, fair and equal methodology" to cut the budget.

One reason CSN's percentage cut is smaller than UNLV's is because CSN saw a greater increase in student enrollment this fall, Klaich said.

Ten of 13 regents voted for the budget reduction proposal. Regent Ron Knecht voted against it, Regent Bret Whipple abstained and Regent Stavros Anthony was not at the meeting.

The proposal regents OK'd was one that presidents of the state's higher education institutions developed.

As the lone dissenter among presidents, David Ashley of UNLV opposed the plan. He had hoped the regents would impose a maximum limit on the percentage reduction any one institution would have to incur.

"UNLV needs to see a stop loss, or a limit on the adverse impact any one institution would bear," Ashley said. "As long as that sentiment is in there, we would be able to move forward with this proposal."

The regents' plan does not answer a question that many students and faculty members on college campuses are asking: What services, jobs and programs could be cut?

At a Wednesday town hall meeting at UNLV, Ashley and Neal Smatresk, UNLV's executive vice president and provost, said deans will begin reviewing academic programs in January to determine which ones are low-, moderate- and high-performing.

A program review committee will then use the deans' evaluations to identify programs the school could cut, reduce or suspend.

Ashley and Smatresk emphasized that officials will not eliminate programs that contribute to UNLV’s mission until budget reductions force that action, which likely will not happen before July.

“This is a process that should have been going on in the ordinary course of events, one that is being jumpstarted now,” Smatresk said. “I’m sure it will lead to spirited and sometimes difficult conversations.”

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