Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, has introduced a bill that would divorce Nevada’s community colleges from the System of Higher Education.
Assembly Bill 331 would create the Nevada System of Community Colleges to manage and control Nevada’s four community colleges, completely removing those powers from the university Board of Regents and putting them under a Board of Regents of their own whose members would be appointed by the governor.
That board would appoint an executive director. Establish standards for the operation of the community colleges ad create a board of trustees for each campus with members appointed by the governor.
The newly created community college system would take over all those functions and powers the Nevada System of Higher Education and its Board of Regents currently have over the community colleges.
The bill also provides that those who attend a community college would continue to be eligible for the Millennium Scholarship and for grants from the Silver State Opportunity Grant Program.
Hansen said he thinks the bill will get bipartisan support in the Legislature.
He said originally, community colleges were almost prep-schools for the universities. Now, he said, they have developed into workforce training centers but the Board of Regents, “always funds UNR and UNLV.”
He said the community colleges get money “if there are some crumbs left.”
He said he was surprised to learn that, in most states, community colleges aren’t part of the university system and have their own governance. AB331, he said, was modeled after the rules in those states.
Former Western Nevada College President Carol Lucey and former Truckee Meadows Community College President John Gwaltney both have said the regents are university centric to the detriment of the community colleges. They pointed to the new funding formulas they say are designed to benefit University of Nevada, Reno and University of Nevada, Las Vegas to the detriment of their community campuses. Gwaltney said their concerns fell on deaf ears.
They argue that the new system makes it easier for the universities to refuse to transfer community college credits, forcing students who transfer to UNR or UNLV to take the same classes again.
They say those new formulas are designed to push more students to the universities while dumping the less prepared students who need more remedial education on the community colleges.
The new formulas also refuse funding when a student gets an “F” in a class and tie funding to the percentage of students receiving degrees. That, they say ignores who community college students are. Lucey said those students take classes to get ahead in their jobs, not necessarily to get a degree. She and Gwaltney said often community college students take a class to learn specific skills and, once they have them, drop out of the class.
And they said often students in the resort industry drop classes because their work schedule changed.
Both have argued for community college independence from the university system as the only way to fix the problem.
The bill was referred to the Assembly Education Committee for study but, if it is approved there, will have to go to the Ways and Means Committee because of its fiscal impact.