Western Nevada College hard hit by years of budget cuts | NevadaAppeal.com

Western Nevada College hard hit by years of budget cuts

GEOFF DORNANgdornan@nevadaappeal.com

Western Nevada College officials say they have suffered general fund cuts of more than 30 percent in the past five years.A white paper presented by College President Carol Lucey says those cuts forced the college to cut course offerings from 967 in 2008 to 669 in 2012 — a 31 percent reduction in course offerings. That meant elimination of degree programs ranging from computer engineering technology to medical lab technicians and paralegal studies. All college personnel positions at rural centers were eliminated, drastically reducing services to the citizens of Fernley, Yerington, Hawthorne, Lovelock and Smith Valley.The college now has just 50 full-time faculty members — down from 70 in 2008.The result has been a reduction in total students from 5,218 to 3,962.At the same time, college officials say the credit hour fee has risen from $64 in 2008 on $90 — a 40-percent jump in cost.The information was presented Friday during a hearing on the impact of budget reductions over the past five years.“All of these responses to WNC’s declining financial resources forced the residents of Western Nevada to lose educational access in the face of all the other challenges imposed on our communities by the economic recession,” campus officials concluded.But according to data presented Friday at a joint meeting of the Assembly Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees, the college was not alone. Over the period between 2004 and this budget cycle, the Nevada System of Higher Education’s share of total state general fund spending has fallen from just under 21 percent to less than 15 percent.Regents Chairman Jason Geddes told the committee all campuses in the system are losing some of their most talented and nationally respected professors and researchers. He said national recruiters have told Nevada higher education officials the faculty in this state are being actively targeted by other states’ institutions.“We’re prime pickings for them to come and take our people,” he said.Great Basin College, which serves a large swath of northern rural Nevada, suffered a 25 percent reduction to nonpersonnel operating budgets and eliminated or suspended seven programs including the commercial drivers licensing, Battle Mountain diesel program, the EMS paramedic program and underground miner training.University of Nevada, Reno, officials reported they had to shut down 14 graduate programs along with seven bachelor degree programs. The campus reorganized and severely cut the Agricultural Cooperative Extension as well as the Bureau of Mines and Geology.The University of Nevada, Las Vegas, reported losing 744 positions including 140 faculty and 17 degree programs.Truckee Meadows Community College suffered a 29 percent reduction in state funding. Officials say a number of professors and other employees have resigned to take jobs in other states.Over the past five years, President Steven Wells says the Desert Research Institute has lost 43 research faculty, which is costing the institution in lost federal and other grants.The review of cuts was ordered to give particularly new members of the Legislature a better idea of what has been happening in the system of higher education over the past five years since the recession began.