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October 26, 2014

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UNLV president backs proposal for program cuts

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Steve Marcus / File photo

UNLV President Neal Smatresk delivers his State of the University Address at UNLV Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2009. Smatresk on Monday endorsed a committee’s recommendations to cut degree programs in the face of budget cuts.

Updated Monday, May 10, 2010 | 4:51 p.m.

UNLV President Neal Smatresk today endorsed a campus committee’s recommendations to eliminate degree programs in educational leadership, marriage and family therapy, sports education leadership, recreation and sports management, informatics and urban horticulture as part of a proposal meet a 6.9 percent budget shortfall.

Smatresk said he was also planning to add clinical laboratory sciences to the recommended list of program cuts assembled by the Presidential Review Committee, made up of five members he appointed and six members chosen by the Faculty Senate. The committee consulted with academic deans, vice presidents and Provost Michael Bowers.

Smatresk will take his proposal to the Board of Regents early next month for approval. To meet the shortfall, Smatresk set a goal of cutting academic affairs spending by $4 million and trimming another $5.7 million from support areas.

“The faculty, staff and students of UNLV have shown that we can face the worst of times,” Smatresk wrote in his letter to the campus community. “I know we will all continue to work together as we reorganize our institution and implement these cuts so that we will be able to best support faculty, staff and students. Despite these challenges we remain committed to our mission to educate and serve Nevada and to create a prosperous and sustainable future.”

In an interview with the Sun, Smatresk emphasized, “I don’t want any of these programs to go … they are all solid.”

But the reality of the fiscal crisis leaves only unhappy choices, Smatresk said.

In the case of the marriage and family therapy program, the university still offers two other degrees in counseling, Smatresk said.

Several other evaluation teams recommended clinical laboratory sciences for elimination, even though it wasn’t on the Presidential Review Team’s final list.

“It’s a small number of students served in a very expensive program,” Smatresk said. “The market just hasn’t created the demand (for graduates) like it has for nursing.”

There are currently 60 undergraduates in the clinical laboratory sciences program, as well as 11 students working toward post-graduate certification. The annual budget for the program is close to $330,000.

The Clark County School District will feel the sting of losing educational leadership, which is a popular training route for educators seeking to become principals and administrators.

Even though enrollment is down in the nation’s fifth-largest school district, “Clark County still needs to train leaders,” said James Hager, a professor in residence in the educational leadership department at UNLV. “People will have to go to California, Arizona, Oregon … I don’t know that everyone can afford to do that.”

Complicating matters will be the “brain drain” if some of those future school leaders decide not to return to Nevada, said Hager, a former Washoe County superintendent.

Smatresk praised the campus community’s handling of the crisis, which is playing out at higher education institutions nationally. But nowhere are blows more punishing than in Nevada, Smatresk said.

“Managing cuts is a poor substitute for actually developing a plan and attempting to solve our problems,” Smatresk said. “We return our attention now to figuring out what we can do within the confines of the university and as a state so that we can provide the higher ed that is going to be critical to Nevada’s future. If this isn’t a call to action, I don’t know what is.”

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