Las Vegas Sun

August 27, 2014

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Higher education system outlines ‘doomsday’ budget effects

Nevada’s public higher education system today released a synopsis of how it would cope with what some higher education officials have called a “doomsday scenario” — a budget that provided the system with state and/or federal stimulus funds equal to the amount of state funding the system received in fiscal 2006.

According to the system, such a reduction would leave state colleges and the Desert Research Institute with $555.5 million a year, 18.76 percent less than the $683.8 million they received in fiscal 2009. The memorandum higher education officials issued today in response to questions the Legislative Council Bureau asked last week paints a bleak picture of what would happen if state funding for higher education shrank to that level.

UNLV, for example, would eliminate academic programs and potentially send employees on furloughs in the neighborhood of one day a month. The school predicts it will lose about 210 faculty members and 170 part-time instructors, resulting in 2,200 fewer class sections and a 24 percent reduction in enrollment.

Under the “doomsday scenario,” the university projects eliminating about 50 staff positions in student affairs. This would slow down the processing of admissions and financial aid applications, impacting recruitment and retention — a major concern at a university where fewer than half of new freshmen graduate within six years.

The College of Southern Nevada would shut down learning centers in communities including Boulder City and Lincoln County. The school would also reduce hours of operations for computer labs, libraries and other facilities.

Nevada State College would eliminate 37 positions, 23 percent of the school’s workforce. The School of Liberal Arts and Sciences, for instance, would lose six full-time teaching positions, resulting in fewer classes in areas ranging from English and math to physical sciences and psychology. This, in turn, would affect students’ ability to graduate in a timely manner.

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