Sunday, April 12, 2009 | 2 a.m.
The higher education system is, once again, turning to students to cover costs.
Starting in fall 2009 students at the state’s community colleges and Nevada State College will see a per-credit technology fee rise to $5.50 from $4. At UNLV the per-credit fee will go from $4 to $7, a $36 increase per semester for students taking a full course load.
Colleges will use the additional revenue to help pay for a computing system that will allow students to access information online, including the progress they have made toward a degree and which courses they need to take to graduate.
The new system will also make it easier for students to register for classes, obtain financial aid, transfer to another public higher education institution in Nevada and access other student services, officials say.
The system is to be available to students of UNLV and Reno’s Truckee Meadows Community College, which agreed to be pilot campuses, in the next academic year.
Income from the technology fee hike, which the higher education system’s Board of Regents approved at a meeting this month, will cover expenses such as software, hardware, staff training and new staff.
The higher education system has devoted more than $20 million to the computing overhaul and is requesting another $10 million from the legislature.
At a regents meeting last week, Dan Klaich, the higher education system’s executive vice chancellor, said the project was on time and under budget.
Nevada’s public colleges have often turned to students to cover a wide range of expenses. At UNLV, for instance, special fees have financed recycling, the purchase of classroom technology equipment and the construction of a recreation center.
Some student leaders said they support the increase in the technology fee because it will result in clear improvements that the peers they represent will enjoy.
“It’s really going to make life a lot easier for students,” said UNLV student body President Adam Cronis. “It’s really going to have tangible results.”
College of Southern Nevada student body President David Waterhouse said the fee increase is understandable because “there’s really no money anywhere else at this point, and it is primarily benefiting the students.”
Each year regents will review the way campuses are using revenue from the increase to ensure institutions are spending it appropriately.
In December regents Chairman Michael Wixom announced he would convene a committee including community and business leaders to examine the state’s seven public colleges and Desert Research Institute, and suggest ways they could operate more efficiently.
Wixom now says plans have changed.
Rather than asking such a committee to review institutions’ operations, Wixom expects to ask its members to provide feedback on the higher education system’s ideas for improving efficiency and effectiveness.
He explained that campus presidents have already begun examining ways their institutions could perform better, a process the presidents are expected to complete by June.
The system will then hire an outside consultant to analyze those findings.
After that, the “efficiency and effectiveness” committee will discuss the ideas for improvement that the system presents. The group will evaluate the proposals and offer its own suggestions.
At a regents meeting last week in Carson City, Regent Bill Cobb of Northern Nevada cautioned that the review of efficiencies could lose legitimacy in the eyes of the public if too much of the process takes place in-house.
Also at the regents meeting, participants spent some time discussing public relations.
Some higher education officials said one benefit of establishing an efficiency and effectiveness committee that includes community leaders was that its members would gain a better understanding of the college system’s mission and operations.
“We don’t do enough of a job of telling people about the work we do and how well we do it,” Klaich said.
Regent Dorothy Gallagher echoed that sentiment, saying, “I do feel very strongly that we don’t tell our story.”