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January 30, 2015

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Lawmakers debate proposed cuts to higher education budget

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CARSON CITY – The debate before the full Senate Friday over the budget of Nevada’s universities and colleges turned bitter at times, but there were no decisions made on the proposed cut in financial support.

Sen. Mike Schneider, D-Las Vegas, told Regent Ron Knecht that it was the fault of the regents’ board for not bringing financial problems to the Legislature two years ago.

Knecht told the Senate he does "not think the sky is falling in because of the proposed spending reductions but it is resulting in an 'awful challenge.' "

Gov. Brian Sandoval’s budget proposal for the Nevada System of Higher Education for the next two fiscal years calls for a 22 percent drop in spending from the present biennium, according to fiscal analysts for the Legislature.

Four Las Vegas business leaders stressed the importance of the university system and Glen Christensen, chairman of the Nevada Development Authority, expressed a willingness to raise taxes.

Chancellor Dan Klaich outlined a four-point plan to help the system survive. It includes a 13 percent annual increase in tuition to bring in an estimated $40 million to $50 million extra annually.

He suggested the Legislature put in the same amount. If adopted, the fee per credit would rise from $156 to $200 in the second year of the biennium.

Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, said that that would mean an additional $100 million from the state. He asked Klaich where the money should come from. Klaich replied it shouldn't be taken from public schools because “they are our partners.”

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-North Las Vegas, asked Knecht a financial question and told him he wanted a “yes or no” answer. Klaich started to explain and Horsford silenced him.

Roberson then objected and said Knecht should have been allowed to answer, but Horsford replied that he was the one who asked the question.

Horsford said the university system must consider closing some of its small campuses. He said there were few students and “I hope we don’t keep them open for the sake of keeping them open.”

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  1. Knecht told the Senate he does "not think the sky is falling in because of the proposed spending reductions but it is resulting in an 'awful challenge.'

    Well Mr Knecht, I suppose it depends on where your standing.

  2. What was Horsford's question? I'll bet no honest man can answer it yes or no.

    Mr Crawford, cutting $62 million from a biennial budget (down from $162M because of tuition and fee increases) is a challenge but it no way shape or form means the universities will be destroyed. $62M is a reduction of less than 2 percent of current NSHE spending in the biennium.

    As for who was at fault, the state legislature approved bigger budgets in 2009 for both K-12 and higher education than in 2007 - it was the legislature's fault as much as it was the NSHE regents.

  3. Gibbons is again conflating numbers in order to mislead in his posts: he mixes in all elements of a budget including those that have nothing to do with classroom teaching (research grants, maintenance, hard costs, etc.) so as to minimize the damage that will be done if this draconian, irresponsible budget goes through as stands.

    Give yourselves the news: our NSHE system will have suffered a 47%-50% cut in state support in a space of a mere 4 years. This is an insustainable cut, which would lead to the decimation of whole departments and programs; or to financial exigency (bankruptcy) which would put the accreditation of our universities at risk; and the system and the state would be open to litigation that will last for years and 10-1 that Nevada would end up paying millions in damages in the end.

    Here are some facts: UNLV's contribution to the Southern Nevada Economy (including multiplier effects) adds up to $1.5 billion for 2009.

    Also: for every dollar of state appropriations, the university generates $5.80 in economic activity for Southern Nevada.

    Each dollar of student off-campus spending generates approximately $2.19 of economic activity.

    And on and on. The economic benefits are clear, have been measured, and result in the message: it only makes economic sense to invest state funds in higher education. Why else are so many business organizations including the non-tax-friendly Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce asking for more funds for higher education?

    (source for numbers: Office of Business and Economic Research, that generates the yearly forecasts and economic indicators for our state).

  4. We started this discussion on Sunday.

    This train wreck could be spotted from 2009. If a casual observer such as myself, could see there would be trouble once the stimulus went away. The economic indicators were horrendous all through 2009 and 2010.

    It really doesn't matter who is a fault. We are, where are in 2011. After the name calling and hyperbole, there are few difficult choices ahead: 1) new revenues; 2) how allocation of priorities between k-12 and higher education; and 3) the priority of cuts within higher education.

    Lastly, the state is going to have to long at some long-term issues such as how to fund education and how to deliver education.

    The debate is at the legislature seem uninspiring to say the least. Let's hope the windbags go into the back room and deal in good faith instead of hyperbole.

  5. Train wreck is just what this budget is, and UNLV, UNR and the Community Colleges did prepare. Also: they have been implementing radical budget cuts already for two years. In UNLV's case, 27% in state funding cuts from 2007-2010. The "hit" that can be taken now without destroying vital infrastructure and poisoning human resources beyond resuscitation (and cuts that the administration is well prepared and ready to do, seeing this coming): about 10% more (not the 17% mandated by this governor's extreme draconian budget). So: preparations are made.

    Question: what other institution, public service, or even private business could absorb more than a 37% budget cut without going bankrupt? How is this even possible without so destroying that institution that it cannot fulfill its core mission into the future?

    Also: how many GOP politicans want "voted to destroy education in Nevada" hung around their necks in the next election? Or: "because of X's vote, your children now must leave Nevada to go to college." Think about what this means also for the future, when voters swing the other way from "no new taxes" to "we deserve a better future."

    This is the situation. The solution? Not "sunsetting" the 2009 tax fix will go a long way toward reducing the 17% cut; plus a reorganization of the NSHE system itself to centralize the administrations and cut duplications of services of some of the smaller and satellite institutions (without eliminating them) can get the reductions to the 10% that is possible to absorb: even so, this will cause letting go many staff and faculty, political difficulty, and, worst of all, the result will still limit choices and opportunities, and increase hardships for Nevada students.

  6. A while ago ESPN reported that UNLV subsidized their athletic budget with about $19 million annually [$59 million budget:$40 million in athletic revenue]. The subsidy, I assume, came from a combination of sources including student fees, which the U would like to increase, and general revenue from the taxpayer. I have read many comments suggesting that programs will be cut, departments closed or consolidated, tenured faculty lost and student programs of study disrupted. What I have not heard is any discussion of how intercollegiate athletics will be trimmed to help meet the shortfalls. If the ESPN data is reasonably accurate [source: UNLV, NCAA, IRS] perhaps we should be discussing a realignment of athletics so as to minimize the impact on academics.

    Silly me......I had assumed that the purpose of a university was pursuit of academic and intellectual achievement.

  7. Between fiscal year 1998 and fiscal year 2008, Louisiana increased its appropriations for
    higher education by 121% (in current dollars), the largest increase for any state (Center for the Study of Education Policy, 1999 and 2009). Nevada increased its appropriations by 113%, the second largest increase, followed by Wyoming (109%), Alabama (101%), and New Mexico (97%).

  8. Do you really think businesses want to come to a state that would destroy their education system?

    News to big money in Nevada: Most people like schools.

    It sends a message that we aren't grown up yet to know better.