UNLV facing fundamental changes with budget cuts | NevadaAppeal.com

UNLV facing fundamental changes with budget cuts

Associated Press Writer

LAS VEGAS (AP) – As Nevada’s colleges and universities face 6.9 percent funding cuts, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas finds itself struggling with larger identity questions about its role in the community and the kind of institution it wants to be.

Its president, Neal Smatresk, told hundreds of faculty, staff and students this week that all ideas are on the table to reach $9 million in total cuts, including about $4 million from academic programs.

Smatresk told The Associated Press that at this point, UNLV won’t be able to fulfill all its current goals.

“Make no mistake about it, we will have to be smaller and more focused,” he said.

“I might say that the state has had, I think, a rather simplistic view of higher education offerings as a cafeteria menu,” Smatresk said. “And I don’t think we can afford to be a cafeteria with a little something for everybody anymore.”

When outlining programs under consideration for cuts, university officials listed its top 20 most expensive programs, including civil and environmental engineering, finance, journalism and nursing. Officials said five to seven of the departments would likely be eliminated.

Along with those cuts, UNLV said it also plans to offer its employees nearing retirement voluntary buyouts, in hopes that 100 employees accept the offer. A university spokesman said roughly 400 employees are eligible.

UNLV says it is already offering 1,000 fewer classes this fiscal year compared with fiscal 2008, among other cuts.

Smatresk said the combined cuts – which, when completed, will have slashed UNLV’s budget by about 30 percent in the last three years – are among the worst things to happen to any school in the history of higher education.

He said the effects will hurt the entire state, especially as the Silver State tries to lessen its dependency on tourism and gambling.

“The simple answer to a better future is that we need more people with higher ed degrees who have an entrepreneurial spirit and are participating in the economy and creating multiple economies,” Smatresk said. “The cuts, to me, are more than perplexing, they’re nearly suicidal.”