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October 20, 2014

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higher education:

Lawmakers told 2,200 could leave under Gibbons’ plan

Officials say university system can’t run on proposed budget

CARSON CITY – Up to 2,200 professors and instructors could leave Nevada’s higher education system if Gov. Jim Gibbons’ budget is adopted, a university official said Tuesday.

“We would lose our best and they would not be replaced” because of the proposed budget cuts, says Dan Klaich, executive vice chancellor of the system of higher education.

Presidents of the various universities and colleges appeared before the legislative budget committees to detail the effects on their campuses.

President David Ashley of UNLV said cutting faculty salaries by 6 percent and adding increased payments for health insurance would mean a loss of professors. There are presently 91 faculty positions vacant.

UNLV would lose $105 million a year under the Gibbons budget, he said. All of the professional schools could be closed and that would only cover 32 percent of the reduction, he said. Closing the three major colleges could mean only a 50 percent reduction.

The governor’s budget, Ashley said, has eliminated a $25 million appropriation to build the new Harrah’s Hotel College, which the casino company will match. “That’s a tragedy in my mind,” he said.

Klaich said Gibbons’ budget proposes a $475 million cut to the system. A university system can’t be run on those reductions, he said.

Sen. Bob Coffin, D-Las Vegas, described himself as the biggest supporter of the higher education system, but he told the school officials they need to make changes. Universities have created doctoral programs the state can’t afford, he said. There is a “mission creep” where colleges are offering some of the same things as the universities. Some colleges want to be four-year schools and he told the presidents, “You need to define the mission where you are going.”

The system also got some strong support. Sen. Warren Hardy, a Republican from Henderson, said, “I am not going to participate in the dismantling of higher education in Nevada.” But, he cautioned, there will be cuts in the budget of the system.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, echoed the comments of Ashley. “That’s not a good approach to higher education,” he said, calling the elimination of the $25 million in the budget “short sighted.”

“We’re not leveraging private funds,” he said.

Michael Richards, president of College of Southern Nevada, said all the schools in the system have been “starving” and have only been on a subsistence level of funding -- the lowest funding per student in the system.

The governor’s budget, Richard said, would mean the school could handle 12,000 full-time students and 18,000 students would be turned away. The school, he said, won’t have the resources and faculty to meet the demand.

The college, Richards said, is the “principal resource” for turning out nurses and law enforcement officers.

Fred Maryanski, president of the Nevada State College in Henderson, told the Senate Finance and the Assembly Ways and Means Committees, that the governor’s budget would mean the nursing program would be “severely cut.” About 90 percent of the nurses turned out by the school stay in Nevada.

Gibbons is recommending a two-year budget of $843.8 million, down 35.8 percent for the whole system. UNLV’s proposed budget of $161.6 million would be sliced by 54 percent during the coming two years.

The College of Southern Nevada’s proposed budget would be lowered to $130.1 million, a decline of 34.3 percent. Nevada State College in Henderson of $18.7 million would see a 43.9 percent drop.

Some president said that some tuition increases might be justified, but those increases would not address the budget gap.

The system says that the per credit fee for undergraduates at UNLV is now $136 and that would have to be raised to $315 in the first year and then up to $331 per credit in the second year of the biennium if the full load fell on students to solve the system’s budget shortage.

For graduate students, the present $217 per credit would have to be boosted to $427 by the end of the biennium at UNLV.

The present per credit fee at College of Southern Nevada is $60 and that would end up at $149 at the end of the two years. And for undergraduates at the Nevada State College, the per credit fee of $98 would be increased to $254 at the end of two years.

System Chancellor Jim Rogers told the budget committees this would not be the last time university officials lobbied. “We will continue to harass you and flood you with weekly memos.”

“When this is over I believe you will save the core values of the state,” he said.

Before the hearing, about 50 students demonstrated in front of the state Legislative Building in Carson City yelling slogans and carrying signs saying they could not afford a 300 percent increase in tuition.

Cy Ryan may be reached at (775) 687-5032 or [email protected].

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