Nevada community college CTE funding increase planned

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The Board of Regents is proposing a 2018-2019 budget that would pump several million dollars into the state’s community colleges to fund Career and Technical Education programs.

For Western Nevada College, the plan would add a total of $3.7 million over the biennium to the college’s budget.

Great Basin College headquartered in Elko would get an infusion of just more than $5 million and Truckee Meadows Community College about $4 million altogether.

“It’s a pretty heavy duty plan to beef up the community colleges,” said Chancellor Dan Klaich.

The Board of Regents is set to discuss the proposed changes to the newly implemented funding formula at a special meeting in Las Vegas on Thursday.

He said the formula that ties state money to weighted student credit hours didn’t take workforce development into account. State funding is “weighted” so classes that cost more to teach get more money per student credit hour taken.

Klaich said the needs and costs of CTE classes just weren’t on the administration or the regents’ radar when the formula was developed.

“It’s one of the policy decisions that just wasn’t raised,” he said. “It’s a flaw in the formula that needs to be addressed.”

Western Nevada College President Chet Burton said no one anticipated companies like Tesla, Faraday and Switch coming to Nevada and needing thousands of skilled workers when the formula was developed. He said the funding formula doesn’t adequately address the cost of providing those classes.

“The landscape has changed very much from 2012 to what it is now,” Burton said, crediting the administration and regents for recognizing the issue: “they’re willing to say this is where we missed it.”

“After seeing the formula fully implemented for the first time, we realized it’s clear how important the community colleges are to building our economy,” said Klaich.

The proposed funding for WNC comes in two pots. The first is $2.47 million over the biennium to pay the cost of supporting six professional positions now being paid for by federal grant money. Burton said that will become an ongoing cost built into WNC’s base to retain positions in welding, advanced industrial technology, information tech, machine tools, automotive and an internship coordinator.

The second is the request for $1.24 million over the budget cycle to front-load the cost of new and expanded CTE programs.

The money would add a dozen faculty in those fields which Burton said would go away after about four years as those programs grow and become self-sustaining.

The biggest piece of that money is some $852,000 to Jump Start. That program currently has 350 local high school students simultaneously studying for their diplomas and learning different technical trades. Burton said 25 of those students will this month get both that diploma and an associate’s degree in their trade.

Another $92,900 would restore the rural nursing program based in Fallon. That program was eliminated during the recession. Burton said the program already has 14 applicants for the eight slots.

Another $124,375 would go to recruit and retain underserved populations, particularly Hispanics who Burton said will soon make up 25 percent of WNC’s headcount.

Both Klaich and Burton say the goal is to fix the fact the funding formula doesn’t pay the cost of dramatic expansions or the creation of new programs for three years or more. They want the credit hour weighting for CTE classes raised from two to four, nearly as high as the weighting for graduate students at UNR.

“To start a new program, I have to fund it from internal resources before the state money catches up,” said Klaich. “We don’t have the ability to pre-load courses.”

“We’re saying if you help us stand it up, we will build it,” he said.

Burton said Jump Start is currently being funded by the “bridge funding” granted the school by the 2015 Legislature. But that money was a one-shot appropriation, not ongoing funding.

“We started Jump Start in 2015 but won’t get credit for those students until 2018,” he said.

Burton said it’s difficult for a small institution like WNC to absorb the cost of starting a new program. He said they need money to pay for such things as the expensive robotic machines students must learn to use. He said this “initiative funding” is also one-shot in the sense it goes away once the number of students taking classes ramps up and the weighted credit hour formula generates the money to make the programs self-sustaining. He described the $1.24 million as “seed money, so to speak.”

In addition, Burton said the plan asks for $1.45 million to remodel, upgrade and double the size of the science lab in the Aspen Building. He said the existing lab is woefully outdated and undersized. He said the school will try to raise $250,000 to help with that project.

“I think we’re in a renaissance of community colleges,” said Klaich. “We know as we have never known before the critical importance of these institutions.”


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