Western Nevada College’s nursing program to be hurt by cuts
Western Nevada College President Carol Lucey says further budget cuts will damage some of their programs, but WNC will survive.
“We were ready for it,” she said Thursday from Las Vegas, where she was attending the Board of Regents meeting. “I’ve got a team at the college that’s like no other. They just dug in and decided, no matter what happens, they’re going to make it work for the students and the college.”
For the coming fiscal year, WNC was budgeted to receive $15.7 million in state funds. The 6.9 percent cut passed at the special session Feb. 23-28 will reduce that by just more than $1 million. That’s on top of the 12.8 percent cut imposed on WNC by the 2009 Legislature.
Nearly 5,700 students attend WNC at its Carson City, Douglas County and Fallon campuses.
Anne Hansen, WNC marketing director, said some programs will be discontinued, including health information technology and the legal assistant program.
But Lucey said she is most concerned about the reductions in the nursing and surgical technician programs. The school will admit 16 fewer nursing students at the Carson City and Fallon campuses.
Carson City will admit 40 nursing students each year, down from 48. Fallon, which admits just eight students each year, will admit eight every other year. Registered nursing is a two-year program.
“We’re just going to admit one group of freshmen and get them through the program, then admit another group two years later,” Lucey said.
The surgical technician program is the other problem.
“I’ve been trying to hire an instructor,” Lucey said. “This year, like last year, I’m going to have to use federal money to do it. That means looking in the temporary market for someone willing to take a job year to year and it’s really hard to do that.”
She said nursing can’t escape cuts: “The whole college has had to take cuts and nursing is our most expensive program so we could not (avoid) cuts there.”
Student Stacy Melhus of Gardnerville said Friday that she is taking the prerequisites to enter the registered nursing program. She said she hopes there is a slot available for her when she’s ready to apply but that she’s not in a hurry.
“I’m working full time and I have three kids,” she said. “When I get there, I get there.”
Hansen said cuts are coming at a time when the economy is driving more people back to school to improve their job skills. She said student enrollment is up 6 percent this year and the number of full-time students seeking a degree is up 33 percent.
John Foster is a former heavy equipment operator who, after some medical problems, is studying computers at WNC in Carson City.
He said he doesn’t think his class offerings will be hurt too much but that he won’t know until the summer and fall class schedules are posted.
“I think I’m safe,” he said.
There are “a lot of areas that could be cut that wouldn’t affect students one iota,” Foster said, citing administrative positions within the entire college system, beginning at the chancellor’s office.
Hansen said the Douglas campus has already been downsized by leaving the director’s position there vacant. The Carson-based dean of student services is handling the director’s duties.
“Certainly we will continue to offer classes there,” Hansen said.
She said students also are adapting to the reduced number of class sections available because of reduced operational budgets. She said more students are adopting interactive video classes in part because they are trying not to drive as much every day.
“People are trying to complete their degrees in the most efficient and expeditious ways they can,” she said.
Lucey said in the long run, WNC will be there for students who need it.
“We’re going to come through this and we’re going to be fine,” she said.