Higher education: Fight for rural funding begins
Protecting Nevada’s small rural campuses will be a large part of the discussion over the university system’s budget this session, Chancellor Dan Klaich said after hearings Friday.He said there is mitigation money in the proposed budget to protect Great Basin College, which serves counties across Northern Nevada, and Western Nevada College, which serves Carson City, Douglas and Churchill counties and western Nevada.But at least two rural lawmakers, Sen. Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, and Tom Grady, R-Yerington, made it clear they don’t think that is enough.To keep those two campuses financially whole would require an additional $7.4 million during the biennium.Goicoechea said those two campuses should have been held harmless as the system’s professional schools were.The Desert Research Institute, law school, medical and dental schools were all exempted from the new formula structure which, Klaich admitted, does present problems.“In large part, the current formula is enrollment-driven,” he said. “The new formula is completion and output driven. It doesn’t really do a lot of good to enroll a lot of students in classes unless they complete. It doesn’t do a lot of good to enroll a lot of students unless they progress toward a degree.”He said that means basing funding on credits completed by students.Goicoechea said he will fight to find money so that Western Nevada and Great Basin College are held harmless.“If that had occurred, you wouldn’t have the argument with us,” he said referring to himself and Grady.To hold those two small campuses harmless, the system needs to find $3.56 million for Great Basin and $3.85 million at Western Nevada. That money is not currently in the proposed budget.Grady said one of the biggest classes now in the Fallon branch of WNC is welding. He said with a major milk plant opening, a new mine and a slaughter house coming in nearby Lyon County, people are already contacting the community colleges about classes.“For $5 million we can restore a lot of this,” he said. “We need help for the rural areas to help themselves and education is the way we’re going to do it.”Goicoechea said the milk plant “is going to be huge,” doubling the herd in that area.Under the new plan, Klaich said campuses get to keep the tuition and fees they generate and use it to their benefit. That, Klaich said, also may tend to hurt the small rural campuses.Per student, he said the two smallest campuses just don’t enjoy the economies of scale that the big ones do.But he said the proposed budget does try to mitigate some of those issues.“What we’re asking for as part of the budget is that you give us time to do that and not push these small colleges off the cliff while we study that,” he told the members of the money committees.The hearing Friday was a high-level overview of the university system budget. It will get a detailed examination during the 2013 Legislature.