Lawmakers warned of damage resulting from proposed cuts to university budgets | NevadaAppeal.com

Lawmakers warned of damage resulting from proposed cuts to university budgets

Although he said the university system is committed to changing how it does business to better serve Nevada students, Chancellor Dan Klaich served notice the governor’s proposed budget will cause serious damage to the system.

“With the budget before us, I will tell you the access mission of our Nevada system of education is at risk,” he told the joint Senate Finance/Assembly Ways and Means committee studying system budgets. “We will not be able to maintain open access to our institutions with this budget.”

He said the governor’s decision to cut $162 million in general fund support from the system’s budgets “is going to fundamentally change this system.”

Klaich said the system has a plan that is “a no-nonsense business-like approach to delivering higher education in this state.”

To do it, he said universities and community colleges must have more “control and autonomy over our tuition and fees.” He said they and the Board of Regents are committed to reforming curricula, capping the number of credits required for a degree and reviewing low-performing programs for possible elimination.

Campuses also are reviewing plans to charge differently for different programs, raising per-credit rates for expensive programs such as nursing and engineering.

He said they also are working more closely with business to ensure they turnout the kinds of students needed for the future.

He said the goal is a modern system that better serves the state and its students in a more efficient way.

“Supporting the budget before you is ensuring just the opposite will occur,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, said changes must be made to accommodate students now being turned away at the different campuses. He said more than 5,300 were turned away from College of Southern Nevada this past year. At the same time, he questioned whether the system has looked into how much it can raise tuition and fees to cover some of the needs campuses have.

Klaich made it clear that is a double-edged sword.

“What we’re hearing from both sides of the spectrum is that, over time, we should become more self-sustaining and less reliant on state resources,” he said.

But he said increases in fees will prevent some from being able to attend – disproportionately the poor and minorities.

“We’re talking about lives that will be changed or that will not have the opportunity to be changed.”

“You can’t just increase the price by any amount and just assume people will still buy the product,” he said.

The Nevada System of Higher Education was cut 17.7 percent in total funding – most of it caused by the governor’s decision not to make up for lost stimulus money. The total reduction translates to $283 million.

The cut would have been much deeper but Sandoval called for turning over $121 million generated by nine cents of the property tax collected in Clark and Washoe counties directly to the two university campuses.

Klaich said the regents haven’t specifically taken a position on that decision but that, in his mind, all of Nevada benefits from the system, so he sees it as appropriate they share in the cost.

“I’m glad that money is in our budget, otherwise we’d be another $120 million short,” he said.

Horsford said more hearings will be scheduled on the system’s budgets.