Michon Mackedon, challenger to incumbent Ron Knecht for the District 9 board of regents seat, called the proposed funding model the No. 1 problem facing higher education. “It would be absolutely devastating to Nevada,” she said. “It would change the landscape of rural community college delivery.”During the candidate forum sponsored by the Associated Students of Western Nevada on Friday, she called for measures that would protect rural campuses, something similar to a former law known as the “rural factor,” which accommodated for smaller schools.Knecht said he is working toward the same goal. “I’ve been advocating for restoration of the rural factor,” he said. “I’ve been marketing this to our Legislature. What we can’t say to a small town is, ‘Sorry, opportunity is leaving you behind.’”The forum at the college was open to the public and video conferenced to WNC campuses in Douglas County and Fallon as well as to Great Basin College in Elko. Audience members were solicited for questions to the candidates. Both candidates pledged to oppose tuition and fee hikes, and expressed concern for rural campuses in light of the proposed change in the funding formula.Under the proposal, higher-level classes would receive an exponentially higher rate of funding. However, community colleges don’t offer master’s degree courses and would be left receiving significantly lower dollar amounts. While Knecht said he sees his responsibility to represent the broad public interest, he takes seriously the objective to save smaller campuses.“It has fallen to me increasingly to be the advocate of the small towns and western Nevada,” he said. “I’ll continue to advocate on that behalf because it’s the right thing to do.”Mackedon said she, too, would work to preserve community colleges and Cooperative Extension, saying the entire board should do the same. “We all need to look into this as a Nevada issue,” she said. “You change the geo-political landscape in Nevada if you cut these programs.”As a former WNC professor, author, native Nevadan and member of the Nevada Commission on Nuclear Projects, Mackedon concluded the forum saying she is the best candidate for the job. She said she is reasonable and temperate.“I’m running because I have the best background and best experience for the job,” she said. “My passion is there, and my experience holds it up. I am not running for any other political reasons. This is the job I want. This is the job I am best suited for. I want to win it.”Knecht, an economist and policy analyst running for his second six-year term, said his record shows he deserves re-election.“Above all, I brought some new ideas in terms of investment management, and we’ve made some real improvements in that area,” he said. “I’ve led the fight to save the community college campuses and Cooperative Extension. And don’t forget, I know my way around the Legislature, having served in the Assembly. It’s been a real pleasure, and I look forward to continuing to serve you.”Early voting for the election begins Oct. 20.