Tuition and fee proposals draw questions from regents

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RENO -- An 8 percent tuition increase a year is more than they bargained for, Nevada university regents said Thursday.

Under the plan presented by University and Community College System Chancellor Jane Nichols, tuition and fees would increase 8 percent for university and graduate students and 4.5 percent in each of the next two years for community colleges.

Regents asked Nichols to return next month with examples of less drastic increases, such as 6 percent for the universities and 3 percent for community college classes.

Regents must vote in April on how much of an increase to include in their budget for the next legislative session.

Nichols said the money is needed not only for the system's general budget but to boost funding available for student aid. Half the increase would be dedicated to help needy students.

She said she would run different scenarios to show how much money different increases would produce for the campuses.

"I've got a problem with the fact that 50 percent of the increase is basically going to subsidize somebody else's children," said Regent Steve Sisolak.

He said he agrees with helping needy and non-white students -- which are seriously under-represented on Nevada's campuses -- but said he doesn't think other students should have to pay the tab.

Regent Doug Hill also said he has "some concern about taxing one group to subsidize another."

Those comments prompted an objection from Regent Linda Howard, who said minority students are the ones most likely to be driven out of higher education by any fee increases. She said dedicating some of the fee increases to student aid is important to improve campus diversity.

At the same time, however, she said she opposes any fee increases.

Nichols told the board she believes the increases are important to show the Legislature the system and its students are willing to help shoulder rising costs of higher education.

She added that dedicating half the tuition increase to student aid would generate about $9 million a year.

Nichols said while students don't really want to pay more for classes, "their message was loud and clear that, if they have to step up to the table, they feel the state should have to step up too."

Rana Koran, president of the UNLV Graduate Students Association, backed her up saying, "the group doesn't want to see an increase but sees the need." And she said they would rather present lawmakers with a plan worked out by those in the system than have them come up with something without student-faculty input.

Both Nichols and Vice Chancellor for Finance Dan Miles pointed out in an earlier meeting that lawmakers have been reluctant in the past to fund student aid. They made it clear Thursday that putting part of the tuition increase into student aid may help protect it so that lawmakers in a tight budget year don't just back that much cash out of the regular university system budget.

Nichols proposed the board adopt a new system for figuring student tuition and fees that pegs the Nevada rate to the median per-credit cost charged by other Western state schools. To ensure Nevada remains at the low end of that cost, she said, the rate used would be the median rate from other schools as of three years ago.

Even so, she said, that would mean a per-credit increase from $76.50 to $85.50 for undergraduates at UNR and UNLV next year and to $92 per credit in 2004-05. That is 8 percent the first year and 7.5 percent the second.

Community college charges would rise from $44 this year to $47.50 next and $49.50 in 2004-05 -- a jump of 4.5 percent each year.

Charges for graduate students would rise from $103.50 to $115.50 next year and $124.50 the following year -- 8 percent a year.

Those are the rates for Nevada residents. Out of state rates would also increase.

Even with those increases, Nichols told the board Nevada would still be charging less than most other Western state schools.


UNR -- $80.50 per credit

UNLV -- $76.50 per credit

UNR Graduate -- $107

UNLV Graduate -- $103.50 per credit

WNCC -- $44 per credit


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