David C. Henley: Don’t throw away 136 years of progress in higher education | NevadaAppeal.com

David C. Henley: Don’t throw away 136 years of progress in higher education

David C. Henley
Special to the Nevada Appeal

All Nevadans should be distressed over the upcoming new round of unprecedented and drastic budget cuts that threaten the state’s universities and colleges.

Founded in 1874 when the University of Nevada campus was established in Reno, Nevada’s system of higher education has since expanded into two major universities, a state college, four two-year colleges and the Desert Research Institute. Today it faces an uncertain and perilous future.

For 136 years, Nevada’s institutions of higher learning have provided quality educations for thousands of young people who have gone on to earn undergraduate and graduate degrees in scores of academic and professional fields.

Should the proposed cuts be enacted, the entire system would be decimated, and all Nevadans, whether they live in metropolitan or rural areas, would suffer.

At Western Nevada College’s campus in Carson City, the nursing and surgical technician programs have been cut, and according to director of marketing Anne Hansen, the health information technology and legal assistant programs would be canceled as well if the proposed cuts are enacted.

The WNC 2010 budget of $19.6 million was sliced by $381,257 during the earlier budget cuts and it is expected to be cut even further when the Board of Regents holds its next meeting on June 3 and 4 at UNR to propose system-wide reductions.

At their June meetings, the regents also will discuss proposed tuition and fee hikes for students at the state’s colleges and universities. If the tuitions rise, as expected, WNC’s will go from $68.50 per unit to about $75, and university tuition will increase from $142.75 to $156.75.

Cuts at the universities, which like the two-year schools were hit with a 6.9 percent budget cut earlier this year, would be particularly disastrous, and as the parent of a daughter who received a bachelor’s degree at UNR in 1990, I am saddened at what faces current and future students at the Reno campus.

UNR authorities said two weeks ago that if the proposed cuts are leveled, the College of Agriculture would be shut down, thus eliminating BA, MA and doctoral degrees in such areas as animal science, animal biotechnology, agribusiness, and environmental and resource economics.

UNR’s School of Education, where many Nevada teachers and administrators have received degrees and certificates, also would be hit by the cuts, and MA and doctoral degrees in counseling and educational specialist would be axed.

In other UNR academic fields, minor, major and graduate degrees in German, French, Italian, statistics, interior design, anthropology, history, political science, philosophy and speech communications would be partially or completely eliminated.

In short: If these cuts are carried out, UNR would become a second-rate institution … a shadow of its former self.

Students, parents, faculty, staff, administrators and concerned citizens across the state are expressing alarm at the cost-cutting proposals, and protest rallies have taken place at university and college campuses where they have expressed their pain.

We must now wait until early June when the regents gather in Reno to learn how deep these cuts will be. If they are as large as many expect, Nevada’s system of higher learning will be dealt a deplorable loss… a loss that will be nearly impossible to rectify.

• David C. Henley is publisher emeritus of the Lahontan Valley News.