Las Vegas Sun

December 22, 2014

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Looking in on: Higher Education:

Ashley says he’s ready to respond to state’s concerns

The Nevada System of Higher Education’s Board of Regents is gearing up for a showdown with UNLV President David Ashley.

Ashley has less than a year left on his four-year contract, and regents are scheduled to decide July 10 whether to keep him as president.

Chancellor Jim Rogers last month called for the regents to reject an extension of Ashley’s contract and to fire him before the contract is up.

He criticized Ashley for what he said was poor communication, insufficient community involvement and for the behavior of his wife, who has been accused of rudeness toward staff.

Ashley had thought he’d have until August to prepare his defense, but regents announced June 22 that controversy over Ashley’s performance would force them to hold a special session in July to address it.

Ashley wrote in an e-mail to the Sun that he is prepared to address concerns about his leadership and that he is looking forward to his performance review “getting back on track.”

Several regents said they have serious concerns about Ashley’s ability to do his job but are waiting to read the final evaluation report and to hear from evaluators and faculty before reaching conclusions.

• • •

University of Nevada, Reno, is countering rumors of massive layoffs after an inaccurate newspaper headline sent staff into a panic at their breakfast tables.

News spread this week that the latest budget cuts would force UNR to cut nearly 300 jobs. The university cut 276 jobs this year through layoffs and eliminating unfilled positions. But the campus has no plans for further layoffs, spokeswoman Jane Tors said.

The confusion is likely due to a headline Wednesday in the Reno Gazette-Journal that read: “UNR Eliminates 279 Jobs.” Those cuts had been reported months earlier.

Administrators were deluged with e-mails and phone calls.

The misleading information was then posted on the Web site of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

In fact, no public higher education institution has announced plans for new layoffs this year, though several could continue with hiring freezes.

UNLV has more than 360 vacant positions, including 100 faculty posts. Some jobs were eliminated this year and some openings are going unfilled. If state revenue and enrollment projections are accurate, no more job cuts will be needed.

The College of Southern Nevada has had no layoffs but left 154 mostly instructional positions vacant this year. It expects to freeze 23 more full-time faculty positions over the next school year.

Nevada State College eliminated nine positions and left 28 more vacant. Some positions there will be filled on a case-by-case basis.

The regents recently approved a 4.6 percent pay cut and furlough program for most system administrators, staff and nontenured faculty to go into effect in 2010.

• • •

The Obama administration Thursday unveiled changes in the federal financial aid application process aimed at increasing college access for low- and middle-income students.

The new process is shorter, simpler and easier to use, according to Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

The Education Department last May began providing instant estimates of Pell Grant and student loan eligibility to students and their families. It is expected to encourage more eligible students to apply.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) Web site will be updated this summer with new software that allows users to automatically skip unnecessary or redundant questions. The administration will also introduce legislation to eliminate unnecessary questions on the application. The change would remove 26 questions the administration says have little effect on aid awards and can be difficult to complete.

The Education Department is also teaming up with the IRS to make the online application process for spring semester applicants easier and faster. In January 2010, students applying for financial aid to start in the spring semester can complete the application with only their basic personal information, as the online document will be integrated with easily accessed IRS data.

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