College President Carol Lucey: Impact would kill Western Nevada College
In September, Western Nevada College President Carol Lucey said 14 percent budget cuts would mean crowded classes, nursing students being turned away and vacant professorships.
But the budget proposed by Gov. Jim Gibbons calls for overall cuts at WNC of 38 percent and she says that would kill the college.
“If you take 40 percent out of this college, you don’t have a college,” she said.
WNC has campuses in Carson City, Douglas County and Fallon. Learning centers are in Fernley, Hawthorne, Lovelock, Smith Valley and Yerington.
Lucey said the first round of cuts last fall took $3 million from WNC’s budgets. That shut down the surgical technician program and automotive tech, cut the number of class sections from 1,073 to 935. Empty positions include the college’s engineer, one math teacher and a chemist. It put an end to the prison education program. All vacant positions have been frozen since mid 2007.
Cuts of nearly 40 percent, she said, add up to another $6 million and take the budget from $25.6 million this year to $15.9 million in fiscal 2010.
Lucey said the budget crisis couldn’t come at a worse time.
The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities comes for an accreditation
site visit in March and one of the things they watch most closely is the adequacy and stability of financial resources.
One alternative suggested by some has been to raise tuition. Lucey said it would require increasing the $60 per credit fee by at least 140 percent at WNC.
“To do that to them (students) in a state that has no need-based financial aid would destroy them,” she said. “We know they can’t afford it so the tuition option is not really an option.”
Another suggested target is the community based programs, which critics often describe as the “basket weaving” classes. Lucey said it’s impossible to save much money there because those programs are self-supporting, paid for by the students who take them.
She said, the only place to get that much money would be by breaking contracts signed with professional employees.
“The only way to cut another $6 million by July 1 would be to break those contracts.”
She said that would require the Board of Regents to declare a “financial exigency,” which would almost certainly cost WNC it’s accreditation. And that, she said, would destroy the system of higher education’s bond rating and result in litigation by students and staff. She said it would also ensure the college would be unable to hire talented professors in the future.
And it would make WNC and the rest of the system ineligible for federal financial aid programs ” including GI benefits.
“A GI comes back from three years in Iraq and he’s got a shiny new GI bill,” she said. “But he can’t use it in Nevada.”
She said a large number of Nevadans, especially seniors, don’t want to pay higher taxes.
“But those seniors are going to need services,” she said. “Are there going to be the EMTs? Are there going to be nurses in the hospitals to care for you? Are there going to be people to provide long term care?”
She said WNC also trains the police and firemen and other service providers needed in the community.
All this, she said, comes as WNC is making real progress in increasing the percentage of students attending full time working toward a degree or transfer to UNR. And with the recession, she said many more are seeking classes to improve their job skills.
Instead of cutting back, she said the school should be expanding applied science and technology classes in programs such as the automotive, welding, information technology and nursing programs.