Wednesday, June 8, 2011 | 8:12 p.m.
UNLV plans to cut fewer positions, departments and degree programs after the Legislature passed a state budget with more money than expected for higher education, President Neal Smatresk said Wednesday.
The university still plans, however, to eliminate 215 positions, nine academic departments and 18 degree programs, which will affect 685 students. The Board of Regents must approve any cuts; its decision may come by September, Smatresk said.
“In this budget there is still very real pain and there will be people who lose their jobs,” he said. “I deeply regret that and hope that further budget mitigations can occur.”
Until last week, the university was looking to plug a $40 million budget gap by, among other measures, eliminating close to 400 positions and 36 departments and degree programs.
But about $20 million in additional state funding for UNLV from the extension of taxes that were set to expire sliced the university’s budget shortfall to about $19 million, Smatresk told about 500 university students, professors and staff at the campus student union.
With an additional $2 million in savings from tenured faculty furloughs and pay cuts and $3 million in tuition increases (13 percent for undergraduate students, and two 5 percent increases — one next year and one the year after — for graduate students), UNLV’s net budget shortfall stands at about $15 million.
“We cut the cuts in half,” Smatresk said. “Just because the cuts are smaller doesn’t mean we’re not being cut.”
In the past, the university has cut more from academic support, such as admissions officers and grant writers. Those areas have been cut “to the nubbins,” so the majority of cuts this year — $9.5 million of the $15 million — will come from the academic side by eliminating departments and encouraging tenured faculty to take buyouts.
Smatresk and the deans of the various colleges are still finalizing which departments will be eliminated.
Under Smatresk’s proposal for academic cuts, the College of Education faces the largest funding cut — about $1.5 million. Three departments and four degree programs will be eliminated, but no students will be affected next year.
Students most impacted by the department eliminations include about 350 students in the College of Urban Affairs and 250 students in the Hotel College.
Of the 215 positions being eliminated under the updated budget proposal, more than half have already been vacated or bought out, Smatresk said. About 100 positions will still be eliminated, although Smatresk said he does not expect any tenured faculty will be cut.
“Tenure in higher education is an honored institution, and we will continue to honor it,” he said. “We exist in a global marketplace for the best and brightest. We certainly don’t need to have the black eye of elimination of tenured positions at our institution if we plan on recruiting, growing and thriving again in the near future.”
All UNLV employees, however, will face a 2.5 percent pay cut and a 2.3 percent salary reduction from six furlough days, he said.
Ricardo Cornejo, student affairs director for the undergraduate student government, called the changes “deeply troubling.” But the UNLV senior, who is planning to get his master’s degree in economics next year, said he is willing to pay the tuition hike if it means the university can rebound from the economic downturn.
“I’m going to be affected both as a community member as well as a student,” Cornejo said. “I want to see this university stick around because it adds value to the community.”