Nevada Faculty Alliance
 

NFA News Archive

  • 18 Apr 2011 9:50 AM | Anonymous
    The Faculty Senate of Western Nevada College passed the following resolution in response to that campus administration's curricular review plan:
    Academic Faculty agree that the ultimate criteria for all decisions regarding WNC need to support the students, community, and programs of the college. The Academic Faculty Senate is in agreement that the goal of curricular review is to maintain academic integrity.

    After a careful review of the Curricular Review process and proposals, Academic Faculty Senate is deeply concerned that the process used to develop the original proposals did not use a collegial model. Given that the academic faculty were specifically charged with providing a response to the curricular review proposal, we are proposing that representatives from the academic faculty senate and the administration engage in a bilateral process to jointly revisit and finalize the scope and specific proposals of the curricular review.
    One faculty member provides the following analysis of the situation:
    "The curricular review plan was handed to us in a special meeting on April 4, two days after in-person notifications went out to affected faculty. The faculty senate was given one month to respond. After creating a subcommittee to consider our options, the full senate elected to take the high road and challenge both the plan and the process used to develop it.The curricular review plan was developed by the executive administration behind closed doors with no faculty input whatsoever. The proposed plan includes layoffs for seven faculty and at least one librarian in concert with eliminating and restructuring of academic programs(keep in mind we have only 65 faculty and librarians at this time). The other personnel losses via the plan are classified. One vice president is retiring and is to be replaced by a director (NOTE: The president wants to search the position immediately; we are resisting. The WNC faculty feel that searching a high-paying administrative position while laying off faculty is wrong). Otherwise, no executives or permanent administrators are proposed to be cut.
  • 12 Apr 2011 2:50 PM | Anonymous
    Last Friday, April 8, the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents held a special meeting to discuss further the state's higher education budget crisis.

    The morning consisted of an extended period of public comment, in which prominent Las Vegans such as Irwin Molasky, Senator Steven Horsford and Lindy Schumacher – as well as faculty, staff and students from all three southern institutions – emphasized the importance of higher education to the regional economy. The final comment consisted of a statement from the Council of Faculty Senate chairs, on behalf of all faculty statewide.

    In the afternoon, the Board heard from the Chancellor and from campus presidents about the detailed budget cut plans that were submitted last week to the legislature, demonstrating the full impact on academic programs that would result from Governor Sandoval's proposed cut of $162 million in state support for Higher Education.

    The Chancellor summarized the substantial cuts in state investement in higher eduation already taken since 2008, while the presidents reported on the significant reductions in student access (for instance, more than 6,000 students would be turned away from CSN) and in degree programs. These include consolidations, mergers and closures of departments and whole colleges at UNLV and UNR, which would necessitate the termination of more than 200 currently employed university faculty (that's more than one-ninth of our current university faculty) and another 500 staff positions between the two universities.

    Here is a summary of the proposed cuts:
    • UNR will lose two colleges, including the teacher preparation function of the College of Education; eight majors; and with reductions in the Department of Mathematics, students will be unable to get classes needed for graduation and professional training.
    • UNLV will lose 12 departments and 36 other degree programs, 325 positions including 135 faculty lines (102 occupied by tenure-earning faculty) and more than 2,000 currently enrolled students
    • NSC, who has lost 19 percent of its full-time faculty while growing 40 percent in student enrollment since 2008, will be forced to offer fewer sections of classes and increase class sizes by over 25 percent.
    • DRI has suffered from substantial faculty losses, with 23 departures since 2008.  Without state funding to invest in recruitment, retention and new research initiatives, this trend will continue, and will likely accelerate, into the coming years. 
    • CSN  expects a reduction in enrollment by approximately 2,478 FTE in Fiscal Year 2013 and an estimated loss of 9,275 headcount, for a total of 12,336 seats on top of the estimated 5,000 students already turned away in Fall 2010.
    • GBC faces the elimination of at least 120 more sections or approximately 3,000 seats in 2012 and an additional 60 sections or another 1,500 seats in 2013.  More than 30 positions will be eliminated.
    • TMCC already has condensed five academic units into two and expects to serve 6,000 fewer students. From 2006 to 2011, TMCC has seen a reduction in staffing of more than 38 percent.
    • WNC plans to close seven satellite facilities, reduce the number of class sections offered and lose seven tenured faculty.
    • NSHE is considering a 12- to 13-percent hike in student tuition and fees for both 2012 and 2013, a cumulative increase of nearly 30 percent – on top of the 20 percent increase that has occurred in the last two years.
    The Board took action only to reopen consideration of closures and consolidations across campuses as well as within a campus.
  • 12 Apr 2011 2:13 PM | Anonymous
    In his report to the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents last Friday, April 8, Chancellor Dan Klaich summarized cuts made to the System so far as follows:

    The System is preparing to enter its fifth consecutive year of budget cuts. 
    • We began cutting budgets in the fall of 2007, six months after the 2007 Legislature adjourned (Fiscal Year '08).
      • We started with a 4.5-percent budget cut in FY 2008 and FY 2009 - $57.6 million dollars.
      • As part of this reduction, NSHE returned its $10 million state investment in iNtegrate.
    • The 24th special session further reduced NSHE by 3.42 percent in FY '09 - another $22.2 million.
    • The 2009 Legislative Session was a difficult one for the System. In closing NSHE’s budget, the Legislature reduced support by 13.1 percent from the FY '09 budgeted amounts. That was an $89 million per year reduction from the budget level our enrollments would otherwise generate.
      • The FY '09 budgeted amount ($681 million) is an important benchmark, because it was the last budget that was created by the legislature that funded NSHE based on enrollments.
      • It's important to note that in reality the state support of higher education actually dropped $184.8 million more than indicated above – and was supplanted by ARRA. More than 22 percent of our budget last fiscal year (FY '10) was supported by Federal Stimulus Funds – funds that were intended to be a bridge for states experiencing hard times – not one-time funds as some have claimed.
    • And then, last winter, the 26th special session convened with another 2.3-percent reduction in FY '10 and a 6.9-percent reduction in FY '11 – a total loss of an additional $46 million. As we stand today, the State support of Higher Ed is $558 million – 18 percent below the $681 million level indicated by our budgeted enrollments.
    • Speaking of budgeted enrollments, it's interesting to note that Higher Ed is often compared to the private sector and told to "tighten its belt" when times are tough. And I understand that – when times are tough at the restaurant down the street or the hardware store on the corner, business falls off and belt-tightening occurs.  But our business hasn’t fallen off. In fact, since the year that budget cuts began, the Fall of 2007, through last fall, we have increased our headcount by 6,700 students; that's a 6-percent increase during an 18-percent cut in state support.
    • And we are doing it with a lot fewer people. A good measure of the robustness of the System is how many people it can employ to carry out its mission. NSHE simply cannot afford the number of positions today that it had in FY '08. In fact, almost 9 percent of our state-funded positions have been eliminated – again, at a time when we are serving more students.
    • Another measure of the System's health is our research activity. In FY '08, the first year of cuts, NSHE had $133.2 million in federal research and development. These projects are the heart and soul of our research mission – the projects that generate new knowledge and attract the best and brightest faculty and students.  FY '10 – just two years later – was down to $118,317 – an 11-percent drop. FY '11 looks like it will be even worse. The contributing causes are easy to identify: disincentives for bright faculty to stay, lack of available funds for grant match and lack of investment in facilities.
    • And student fees have gone up as well, from FY '07 to this year:
      • Colleges – 32 percent
      • Univ UG – 49 percent
      • Univ Grad – 60 percent
      • State College – 43 percent

  • 11 Apr 2011 8:00 AM | Deleted user
    To my fellow Senators and members of the UNR academic community:

    During the past rounds of program cuts I, and past Senate Chairs, generally tried to develop a conciliatory tone recognizing the damage of proposed cuts, but also the respect we held for those involved with the process.  We did this in the interest of shared governance, which is practiced in both good and bad economic times.  However, given the intransigence of the Governor – who refuses to even consider alternatives – and a flawed system of prioritizing cuts, we can no longer sit back and passively accommodate the process.

    The most recently announced round of program cuts are an unprecedented assault on academic quality, faculty rights (and to be honest all employee rights on campus) and the ideal – practiced for centuries – of shared academic governance.   Where in the past we clung to the veneer of shared sacrifice and informed decision making with the administration, we can no longer be complicit in the dismantling of the academy.   We have both an academic and fiduciary responsibility to the institution, state and our professions to reject both the content and process of what is unfolding across all institutions of higher education in the State of Nevada.  If we blindly sit by and fail to speak we are no better than regulators who turn a blind eye to environmental or fiduciary practices that have resulted in multiple disasters across the country.

    The announced round of cuts made yesterday are couched with the phrase they “were identified after consultation with a faculty committee.”  Some may disagree, but this is at best an overstatement.   The current cuts – done in the name of strategic prioritization and on a forced schedule – are an arbitrary collection of items and the presentation of their effects has been less than forthright.   They also include priorities and process no Faculty Senate – nor individual faculty – should allow to stand without condemnation.   I recognize the cuts were largely forced upon administration by multiple external entities, but their implementation would include the following prospects:


    ·         In a state that leads the nation in K-12 dropouts and the lowest percentage of students likely to pursue post-secondary education, the current proposal effectively eliminates any advanced training for educators.  The collapsing of the College of Education into the more amorphous College of Liberal Arts could threaten basic accreditation and licensing of future graduates.  In addition, the announcement of this reorganization simply highlights the elimination of a few graduate programs when in fact multiple firings of tenured faculty are a far more likely consequence.

    ·         The current proposal seeks to eliminate Philosophy as a degree granting unit and really in any sense as a unit with complete disciplinary independence and rigor.  Combined with a similar proposal at UNLV, this “by the numbers” approach will leave Nevada as the only state in the nation where the works of Plato, Mill and Rawls will recede to some dark administrative corner.   While we might be accused of being “pointy headed academics,” such a rejection of the fundamental ideas of academic inquiry and civilization cannot be quietly vouchsafed by the academic community.

    ·         But numbers are seemingly ignored in the proposal to take $1 million from the Department of Mathematics & Statistics.  In fact, the total dollar grab from the department was not mentioned in most press releases from the administration.  Instead, the focus was on elimination of the graduate degree program, which at best might account for 20% of the total proposed savings.  What is left unstated is the more realistic outcome of eliminating nearly 40% of the faculty within the department.   Math teaches more students than any single department on campus.  It has been singled out for cuts in every round of “strategic review,” despite the fact it carries a higher student FTE ratio than any similarly sized or tasked unit on campus.   If this cut goes forward, UNR will spend nearly equivalent amounts on the salaries for the football staff as for a discipline that is central to the success of every student at the University and vital to the support of degrees in Engineering, the Sciences and Business.  To say such a proposal in any way accords with faculty priorities is simply wrong.
    These are just a few of the implications of the new round of proposed budget cuts.  The current proposed cuts also contain an unprecedented assault on faculty rights and governance.   Previous cuts have eliminated such support and protection units as the Faculty Omsbudsperson, the Affirmative Action Officer and salary support in the Senate Office.   This latest cut removes 50% of the staff in the Senate Office.  This cut was made without any advance consultation or even the courtesy of prior notification to Senate leadership.  With more faculty facing the prospect of firings and with curricular review processes that place faculty in highly disadvantaged situations in terms of meeting biased review standards, such elimination of support staff who can assist faculty will only further weaken the voice of all employees on campus.    If tenure is to have no meaning at UNR we should honestly confront that situation and should not accept the loss of our individual rights without comment.

    We are, as a Senate, at a disadvantaged position in terms of influencing decisions made by this (or really any) administration.  The President and Provost have unenviable jobs in making cuts, but to say faculty are active partners or that we can stand by while such cuts are enacted can no longer be supported.  We should not be accomplices in these actions and certainly should not have our actions used in any way to justify actions we may find repugnant.

    Towards that end, the rigid adherence to vertical cuts has often been justified by a Senate Resolution passed in June 2008.  This resolution gave general support for preservation of programs which “have achieved national prominence and provide the most value to university constituencies.”  This resolution was developed when the level and length of the budget difficulty was not assumed to be as great as it now is and was also predicated on a belief that standards for vertical cuts would be applied in some sort of consistent fashion.  Neither assumption now holds.  To simply cling to the strategy, despite the changing circumstances, in my mind meets the pejorative definition provided by Emerson of “a foolish consistency.”   I will ask at our April meeting for a motion repudiating this prior statement as it is being used to work against faculty interests.

    We should also consider a formal statement of repudiation of the Governor’s strategy and priorities concerning higher education.  The Governor has stated that higher education has “failed” in Nevada simply based on raw degree production.  This shows little if any understanding of how students come into or even graduate from the institution.  At the most basic level, this type of thinking creates a perverse incentive for the institution to ignore any standards and simply meet the mark cranking out degrees.   Thus, if Math is somehow holding students up in their progress for a degree – largely because the University now admits more students who enter the University with a remedial Math deficiency – we simply downsize the requirement and the degree.  As noted above, it is our responsibility to insure academic quality and to simply “go along to get along” with an elected official makes a mockery of our professional standards and responsibilities.   We are often told this may “offend the Governor,” but at what point do we not react to the more grievous substantive damage resulting from the Governor’s politically motivated assault on higher education in the state?

    I will also ask for discussion concerning a request that our accrediting body – The Northwest Commission – be asked to return to campus to review whether our budget and programmatic cuts are of such magnitude that degrees from the institution be re-examined for basic academic integrity.  If the state desires to hollow out degree requirements, student preparation and the qualifications of faculty, then we have a fiduciary and ethical responsibility to make incoming students and peer institutions across the nation aware of the situation at the University.  I do not have a formal motion on this point, but it is an issue we should discuss.

    As noted above, the Senate, the faculty, staff and students have willingly worked to meet budgetary strictures in a cooperative and constructive fashion.  However, the current round of cuts poses a direct threat to academic standards, basic employment rights and undercuts standards of cooperative governance.    These are my observations following yesterday’s announcements and I, of course, welcome a vigorous discussion at our April meeting.  I am sorry such a drastic statement is necessary, but we can no longer be complicit in our own demise.  Thank you for any consideration and your continued work on behalf of the academic integrity of the University.

    Respectfully,

    Eric Herzik
    Professor and Faculty Senate Chair
  • 08 Apr 2011 11:47 AM | Deleted user

    For one hundred years, higher education has been a primary gateway to a better life for Americans. People with college degrees make more money, divorce less, live longer and secure a better future for their children than people without a degree.  In fact, despite its many flaws, the American system of higher education is the envy of the world, attracting students from every corner of the globe.

     

    And yet today, when the state of Nevada already has the fewest students who go on to college in the nation, it stands on the precipice of limiting access, reducing the quality, and narrowing the breadth of higher education for Nevadans.  If the Governor’s budget passes intact, consider the following:

     

                 UNR will lose 2 colleges, including the teacher preparation function of the College of Education; 8 majors; and with reductions in the Department of Mathematics students will be unable to get classes needed for graduation and professional training.

                 UNLV will lose 12 departments and 36 other degree programs, 325 positions including 135 faculty lines (102 occupied by tenure-earning faculty) and over 2000 currently enrolled students

                 NSC, who has lost 19% of its full-time faculty while growing 40% in student enrollment since 2008, will be forced to offer fewer sections of classes and increase class sizes by over 25%

                 DRI has suffered from substantial faculty losses, with 23 departures since 2008.  Without state funding to invest in recruitment, retention, and new research initiatives, this trend will continue, and will likely accelerate, into the coming years.  

                 CSN  expects a reduction of enrollment by approximately 2,478 FTE in FY 2013 and an estimated loss of 9,275 headcount, for 12,336 seats on top of the estimated 5,000 students already turned away in Fall 2010

                 GBC faces the elimination of at least 120 more sections or approximately 3000 seats in 2012 and an additional 60 sections or another 1,500 seats in 2013.  Over thirty positions will be eliminated.

                 TMCC already has condensed five academic units into two and expects to serve 6,000 fewer students.  From 2006 to 2011 TMCC has seen a reduction of staffing over 38%

                 WNC plans to close 7 satellite facilities, reduce the number of class sections offered and lose seven tenured faculty.

                 NSHE is considering a 12-13% hike in student tuition and fees for both 2012 and 2013, a cumulative increase of nearly 30%--on top of the 20% increase that has occurred in the last 2 years.

     
    This systematic dismantling of higher education is being done on the basis of false facts.  Before this recession, Nevada already had the smallest state general fund in the country (when viewed as a share of the state economy), the fewest public employees in the nation, and the fewest working in higher education. Further, Nevada state employees are not overpaid.  In fact, when educational level and work experience are taken into account, they are slightly underpaid.

     

    Moreover, the budget shortfall we are experiencing today may be a large share of our small state budget, but it is only 1% of our state economy.  The Governor asserts that state government spending is out of control; this is untrue given any comparative data.  The Governor has not considered options providing a balance of cuts and revenues.  In fact, his budget, by refusing to consider the so-called “Sunsetted Taxes,” removes revenues created to sustain the state through our unprecedented budget crisis.  The problem we face is not too big to solve, provided the Governor will come to the table to find a balanced solution. 


    In the face of these facts, the Governor claims that increasing taxes is bad policy, especially during a recession.  But again he is simply mistaken.  Economic theory and all the evidence contradict his premise.  These spending cuts will hurt the economy much worse, in both the short and the long run, than providing adequate funds for the universities, state college, and community colleges.  Indeed, the fact that Nevada has suffered in this recession more than any other states has not been because we spent too much on education, but too little.  Other states, even those Western states with severe housing bubbles, have recovered faster because they had a more educated population and were better able to adapt to new employment and investment opportunities.


    Finally, these actions are rooted in the wrong values.  The Governor’s budget is built on the notion that Nevadans are, and should be, only out for themselves.  It pits small business against government workers, parents against teachers, consumers against taxpayers, the old against the young.  But if, as this budget promises, a few of us succeed at the expense of the rest, we will all have failed.   Higher education is a public good. When one of us is educated, it benefits all of us.  When one of us is denied this opportunity, we all lose.  

     

    Given these facts, we believe that the Governor’s proposed budget is not an effort to solve a crisis, but rather an effort to use a crisis for ideological purposes, to take advantage of this recession to force a significant scaling back of public education.  We believe the advocates of this approach oppose the public university on principle.


    We, the faculty of the NSHE, declare that what the Governor’s budget proposes to do with higher education is wrong.  It is wrong on the facts.  It furthers the wrong values.  It charts the wrong course for Nevada’s future. 

  • 06 Apr 2011 3:02 PM | Deleted user
    Two mining measures are making their way through the Senate Revenue Committee. SJR 15 would delete the constitutional protections for the mining industry, thus allowing the Legislature, if the constitutional amendment passes, to tax mining by statute as other states do. SB 493 would establish an oversight commission to monitor how mining issues of all kinds are handled (including taxation).

    In an April 5 hearing, two Nevada Faculty Alliance representatives – Glenn Miller, UNR NFA chapter president and an environmental expert, and Jim Richardson, NFA lobbyist – testified on these measures, with Glenn offering substantive reasons for the need for oversight on mining in Nevada, and Jim lending NFA support to both measures.

    The NFA supports SJR 15 and SB 493 because of environmental concerns, but also particularly because of problems revealed recently concerning taxation of the mining industry, such as the number of deductions mining companies claim and the fact that they have not been audited in two years.

    Our support of the two bills also is based on desperation. We in the Nevada System of Higher Education are handing out hundreds of pink slips to faculty and staff who will be terminated if the governor’s proposed budget is approved. We will see many more degree programs terminated, campuses closed, and thousands more students hindered in their efforts to get a degree.

    And all this is on top of the hundreds of terminations forced during the current biennium by the 20-percent budget cuts already absorbed. This should not be occurring at all, particularly while the extremely lucrative mining industry is reaping record profits and taking most of those profits out of state.

    Sadly, neither of these bills will deal with the short-term problems we face; however, if passed, they may prevent future legislatures from being so stymied in their efforts to deal with fiscal problems Nevada faces.
  • 06 Apr 2011 2:44 PM | Deleted user
    AB 449, the economic diversification bill, was heard April 4 in a joint meeting of the two money committees. It was presented by the chief sponsor, Senator John Oceguera, along with Governor Brian Sandoval, Lt. Governor Brian Krolicki and Majority Leader Steven Horsford. So, it has some momentum and will pass, and be signed by the governor with great flourish.

    Nevada System of Higher Education Chancellor Dan Klaich testified, offering  support from the System, and appreciation for the recognition that the System must play a major role in economic diversification in Nevada. He indicated that he understood the funding for the Knowledge Fund, which the bill's authors would like to set at $10 million, would not be carved out of the NSHE allocation at the end of the session, but would be directly allocated from the state General Fund in addition to the NSHE allocation. The precise amount of the allocation, however, will be determined later, pending availability of state funds.

    Moreover, the Chancellor noted that the fund would only impact research done by university and DRI faculty who were funded from the Knowledge Fund and therefore did not represent an imposition on the academic freedom or autonomy of higher education faculty.

    In response to a question from Senator Horsford, Klaich agreed that there was a significant incongruity between this effort at economic diversification and the huge budget cuts being recommended by the governor for NSHE institutions. Klaich indicated that NSHE institutions would  not be able to do all that needed to be done toward economic diversification if anything like the current budget proposals were approved.

    The bill contains $10 million in funding for a “Catalyst Fund” that is in the Sandoval budget to help lure businesses to Nevada, and to assist those businesses already here. There is a separate “Knowledge Fund” that is supposed to assist the two universities and DRI in doing research in areas the State has chosen to promote. However, there is no specific dollar amount yet designated for the state's contribution to the Knowledge Fund. The original version of the bill actually called for contributions directly from UNLV, UNR and DRI totalling $8 million, but that was dropped in the new version after concern was expressed by NSHE representatives, and the funding from the Knowledge Fund was left open. This is cause for concern among NSHE faculty, staff and administrators, who fear that any funding will in fact be taken from the overall NSHE allocation for the next biennium.

    The bill is supposed to be modeled after what has happened in Utah with the USTAR project that has helped rejuvenate the Utah economy as a result of the infusion of tens of millions of dollars into the two public universities there over the past several years. USTAR has been funded since 2006 with about $15 million per year from state funds, and also received $33 million from federal stimulus funds as well. Click here for information about USTAR.

    One person associated with USTAR testified on AB 449 indicating support for the effort and pointing out that Utah developed its model during a time of budget surpluses, whereas Nevada cannot have such an advantage given the budget situation here (the refusal to develop new sources of revenue for the State). He wished us luck in this effort. Many others testified in favor of AB 449, and it seems to be on its way to quick passage, even with no specific dollar amount yet designated for the state's contribution to the Knowledge Fund.
  • 31 Mar 2011 2:55 PM | Deleted user
    The Nevada System of Higher Education must submit complete budget-cutting plans to the state legislature by April 5, which will show the full impact of Governor Sandoval's budget on academic programs across the state in two versions: with and without a plan for campus consolidations. Campus administrators have begun releasing these updated plans for academic cuts, which will be implemented if the governor's budget is passed as proposed, and if NSHE takes no action to prioritize or streamline.

    As you all know, campus administrators have begun releasing updated lists of academic cuts that would be implemented if the Governor's budget were passed as proposed, and if the Nevada System for Higher Education takes no action to prioritize or streamline.

    UNLV would cut another 155 faculty lines in 36 programs, displacing over 2200 currently enrolled students. The UNR administration is expected to release its revised proposal this week, which could include an additional $17 million in cuts from academic units. At CSN, the administration has announced it would have to reduce access for 6,000 students, nearly 20 percent of its current full-time equivalent enrollment. Western Nevada also has announced closures of programs that would result in denied access for students and faculty layoffs.

    What can we do to avoid this assault on our university and our state's future?

    On the state level, please continue to use your own time and your own phones to call key state legislators. There are crucial points we need to make to key legislators.

    On the System level, encourage the Regents to prioritize instruction over administrative expenses and to engage in thoughtful discussion of curriculum and sound measures of efficiency. The System needs a plan to implement cuts that will ensure state dollars are devoted first and foremost to fulfilling the state's needs in research and instruction rather than preserving administrative structures or subsidizing secondary priorities such as athletics.

    On your campus, please engage thoughtfully – in your departments and colleges, meet with your chairs and deans. Inform yourselves about alternatives to program review which ought to be pursued before students are denied access, programs are cut irretrievably and faculty are laid off. Urge curricular priorities to be identified, faculty to be consulted and reorganizations to be pursued thoughtfully but fully.

    Join the Nevada Faculty Alliance and engage in the fight to save Nevada's future.
  • 31 Mar 2011 2:34 PM | Anonymous
    NFA Board member Sondra Cosgrove, College of Southern Nevada, filed this report from Tuesday's budget hearing in Carson City.

    Monday, March 28, the Nevada Senate met in a committee of the whole to review the Governor’s budget. Senate majority leader Steven Horsford highlighted the proposals for each area of the state budget, identifying not only more than $2.5 billion in proposed cuts to essential services, including a 29-percent cut for higher education from 2009 levels, but also over $1 billion in anticipated revenues to be borrowed from county reserves or from the 2013 biennial budget. This chart highlights the impacts.

    Most importantly, the discussion made clear that even if the legislature were to renew the package of sales taxes passed in 2009, which expire unless renewed by the 2011 legislature, the anticipated $780 million would provide only very limited relief for the state and would still leave a significant gap in the Nevada System for Higher Education budget.

    With particular relevance to the NSHE budget, Senator Horsford demonstrated the incorrect assumptions in the governor's claims that higher education is being cut by only 7 percent. He noted that in 2009, the legislature cut state general fund support for higher ed by 25 percent, then used federal stimulus funds to fill in some of the gap. But in this year's budget, the governor took the 2009 funding level as the base, from which he subtracted a cut of 23 percent in general fund support.

    While other agencies that received federal stimulus funds in 2009 would see some state funds restored in 2011 under the Sandoval budget (such as K-12, human services and public safety), higher ed would receive no additional state dollars – only a projected diversion of property tax money from Washoe and Clark counties, which is being disputed by the county governments. Moreover, the amount of these property tax revenues appears to be overestimated in the Governor's budget.

    So, higher ed, which already took the steepest cut of any major agency in 2009 (a 15-percent reduction in total allocations, even after tuition increases were figured in, then another 6.9 percent in the 2010 special session) would now be cut by another 17 percent after projected tuition increases. The result would be a base budget reduced by nearly 40 percent since 2007.

    At the hearing, Senate staff stated that Governor Sandoval’s budget assumes that the taxes increased in 2009 will sunset July 1, 2011. To make up for the deficit created by the sunset and continued economic weakness in the state, the Governor’s budget depends on cuts, borrowing tax revenue from the counties, economic recovery and growth, as well as borrowing against future tax revenue by issuing bonds. Staff reported that in order to replenish monies taken from other revenue streams through growth alone, Nevada’s economy would have to average 12.6-percent growth over the next six years.

    Senator Horsford made it very clear that the state can no longer count on gimmicks and moving money around to fund state services. He equated the governor’s budget to taking out a second mortgage to pay for everyday expenses. Senator Mike McGinnis argued that looking at what could happen in the future if the economy stays depressed was counter-productive, but others argued that cutting now and creating funding problems for the future were inappropriate budget strategies.

    Strategies proposed by the governor’s office included securitizing future tax revenues from the insurance premium tax (selling bonds backed by future revenue), which would generate approximately $190 million for this biennium, but would cost over $200 million in interest in addition to the bond principle; borrowing tax revenue from the counties, yet if the state takes county property tax money and the counties run short on revenues, then the counties may have to raise property taxes; and making cuts to state workers’ salary and benefits; with the total cut to salary and benefits possibly reaching over 10 percent.

    No one proposed alternatives to the governor’s budget during the meeting, but the media is reporting that a bill to remove the sunset provision on the 2009 tax increases will be submitted this week.

    It is not yet clear, however, what share of this money might be used to invest in higher education nor how this money would be distributed among System institutions.
  • 23 Mar 2011 11:32 AM | Anonymous
    NFA Board member Sondra Cosgrove, College of Southern Nevada, filed this report from yesterday's budget hearing in Carson City.

    On Tuesday, March 22, the joint Assembly Ways and Means and Senate Higher Education Committee met to discuss the state allocation to Nevada's System of Higher Education. Legislators pushed System Chancellor Dan Klaich to provide fuller detail about the System's plans to cut $162 million as proposed by Governor Sandoval. The subcommittee members asked Klaich to provide additional information about the impact on students by prioritizing instructional budgets, which include most faculty positions, over administrative costs and other non-instructional budget lines.

    Although the Board of Regents has constitutional authority over the System, the legislature determines the funding for each campus and other NSHE entities.

    The meeting began with Chair Steven Horsford stating his appreciation for the students, faculty, and community members who visited the legislature Monday, March 21, to express concerns over higher education budget cuts. 

    Senator Horsford began by asking NSHE Chancellor Dan Klaich if the Board of Regents had decided to take mergers and closures of campuses and sites off the table for budget cuts at the March 11 meeting. Chancellor Klaich affirmed. Institution presidents then provided a summary of their presentations from the Regents meeting on how each institution would handle budget reductions if the governor’s budget passed without change. 

    The presidents of UNLV and UNR presented specific academic programs that would be cut, including the exact number of faculty and staff to cut and the number of students affected. The colleges, which have different financial structures, focused on reducing access for students rather than eliminating programs.

    The System did not have a complete template available for the hearing to demonstrate the full impact of the Governor's budget. Some committee members wanted to know why there was a different emphasis between the two types of institutions. Assemblyman Marcus Conklin explained that, in general, the universities provide complete degree programs, while the community colleges provide core classes, certificates and other workforce-related services. After this explanation, all the presidents affirmed that their institutions were undergoing program/curricular review to be sure that duplication of programs and other services is eliminated when possible.

    Senator Horsford questioned the wisdom of reviewing programs before discussing workforce needs with the business community and before the Governor’s office has presented an economic development plan. Assemblyman Paul Aizley and Chancellor Klaich both emphasized that the Governor’s office and the legislature need to communicate the state economic development plan to NSHE officials and be ready to fund higher education sufficiently to accommodate those plans.

    Committee members questioned why the budget plans presented did not reduce NSHE’s budget to the level of cuts required by the Governor’s budget. They also wanted to know why mergers and closures had been taken out of the plans at the last Regents meeting if doing so made it impossible for NSHE to meet the Governor’s cuts.

    Committee members were also noticeably concerned about how students would be hurt, whether by eliminating programs at the universities or cutting class sections at the community colleges. Committee members asked Chancellor Klaich to ensure that the System was doing everything it could to move funding from non-instructional areas to academic budgets. Senator Horsford asked Chancellor Klaich to provide a budget reduction template that each institution can complete to show how much money is being allocated to funding in comparable areas.

    At the end of the meeting, Senator Horsford asked Chancellor Klaich to prepare a report due by April 5. First, the System Office needs to use a template for budget cutting for all institutions that shows the true amount that will need to be cut under the Governor’s budget. This must include mergers and closures. Second, the System Office needs to provide a report on reforms that will divert more funding to instruction; streamlining administrative costs is one area to be addressed. Third, the System needs to create a budget report that prioritizes all state funding in the NSHE budget, including non-instructional budgets such as inter-collegiate athletics, statewide programs and the University Press.

    At the end of the meeting, Board of Regents Chair James Dean Leavitt asked that legislators send a clear message on what Nevada values as a state. And he asked that they devote equivalent time to examining how to raise revenues as they have for cutting budgets.

    NFA lobbyist Jim Richardson testified that it was demoralizing for faculty to hear from the Governor that the education system in Nevada has failed. He pointed out that Utah employs two times as many faculty at its public higher education institutions than Nevada, despite the fact that Utah has a population only 100,000 people greater than Nevada.


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