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  • 23 Feb 2024 8:15 PM | Kent Ervin (Administrator)

    Fiscal Analysis of UNLV and UNR Annual Athletics Reports for 2022-2023

    Both UNLV and UNR are projecting multi-million dollar annual deficits through fiscal year 2028, which would lead to cumulative deficits of $27 million at UNLV and $38 million at UNR by 2028. At the March 1, 2024, Board of Regents meeting, the Intercollegiate athletics programs at UNLV and UNR will present their 2022–23 budget information for the past five years and projected budgets for the next five years. Institutional presidents and the Board of Regents are responsible for holding athletics programs, as well as other “self-supported” university programs, accountable for fiscally sound practices. Alarmingly, the UNLV and UNR presentations contain no strategies for avoiding these unsustainable budget deficits other than vague mentions of increased gifts or university subsidies.

    Here, we provide a fiscal analysis of the two NCAA Division I programs at UNLV and UNR, highlighting issues of concern.

    Charts 1A and 1B (below) show the reported* annual operating revenues from the athletics self-supporting budgets for UNLV and UNR, respectively, from FY2016 through FY2023 (actuals) and FY2024 (projected).  The revenues are categorized as (a) state appropriations, (b) student fees, (c) tuition and fee waivers, (d) institutional support, or (e) athletics income.  Athletics income includes ticket sales, NCAA and conference distribution, media revenue, contributions designated for athletics, and all other program revenue of the athletics programs.

    Charts 2A and 2B (below) show the annual operating surplus (or deficits) reported* to NCAA by UNLV and UNR, respectively, along with cumulative surpluses (deficits) starting with FY2019, the most recent annual athletics reports that stated the ending reserve balances, with projections through FY2018.  The cumulative deficit for UNR does not include $8.25 million in "historical debt" that was assumed by the university in 2018.


    UNLV increased institutional support by about $10 million in FY2021 using federal COVID relief funds to cover pandemic-related losses, then returned university support to previous levels (see Chart 1A). 

    Contributions increased from $4.6 million in FY2023 to a projected $14 million in FY2023, and then are projected to continue at $10 million per year (see “Contributions” under Revenue on page 25 of the UNLV Annual Athletics Report). The source of these higher contributions to the UNLV athletics program was not discussed in the 2023 Annual Athletics Report.

    For FY2023, UNLV reported an operating account deficit of $10 million.  For FY2024, UNLV projects breaking about even. For FY2025 through FY2028, UNLV is projecting annual deficits of $4.2 to $5.8 million, which would result in a cumulative deficit of $27 million in FY2028 (see Chart 2A). The 2023 UNLV report does not indicate how this deficit will be addressed, only stating the athletics budget office is seeking to clarify institutional support (page 24).

    Compensation for coaches at UNLV is increasing from $7.9 million in FY2023 to $11.4 million projected for FY2024, a 44% increase (compared with 12% cost-of-living adjustments).


    UNR increased institutional support by about $10 million per year beginning in FY2021, initially to cover pandemic-related losses (see Chart 1B). UNR projects that higher level of university support to continue through FY2028. Reportedly, the initial funding for the increased institutional subsidy came from federal COVID relief funds while current and future funding is from Marigold Mine royalty income. However, the UNR Marigold Mine royalties are a finite and variable source of funds so it is unclear whether that is sustainable.  

    For FY2023, UNR reported breaking even with an operating account surplus fo $23,339.  For FY2024, UNR projects a deficit of $2.9 million. For FY2025 through FY2028, UNR is projecting annual deficits of $7.4 to $9.7 million, which would result in a cumulative deficit of $38 million in FY2028 (see Chart 2B). These deficits are projected to occur despite the $10 million per year in additional university support. The 2023 report suggests that “additional University support” from UNR will be requested (see “Institutional Revenues” footnote on page 12) in an attempt to maintain parity within the Mountain West conference. That contradicts assurances from the UNR administration that UNR will hold the line on any further increases in institutional support and that Athletics cannot come back and ask for more.

    Compensation for coaches at UNR is increasing from $8.8 million in FY2023 to $9.4 million projected for FY2024, a 7% increase (compared with 12% cost-of-living adjustments).

    Chart 1A.

    Chart 1B.

    Chart 2A.

    Chart 2B.


     *Notes: The annual reports for the NCAA Division I programs at UNLV and UNR contain revenue and expense data as reported to the NCAA and as tracked for the self-supporting budgets internally in Workday. The latter exclude various indirect and indirect support, and different accounting standards may apply (e.g., cash vs accrual bases). Also, despite a 2018 NSHE internal audit review designed to make the UNLV and UNR financial reporting more consistent, the format and breakout details of the budget tables in the annual reports are different. Here only apples-to-apples data are compared as we understand the reports. Corrections from authoritative sources are welcome (Contact:


  • 11 Feb 2024 5:00 PM | UNR Chapter (Administrator)

    The board of the UNR Chapter of the Nevada Faculty Alliance expresses concern about the integrity of hiring processes for leadership positions at UNR. In the past week, a blog post raised concerns about the publication record of Dean Erick Jones of Engineering and led to additional coverage in the Sagebrush, This Is Reno, and Retraction Watch. While we believe that Dean Jones deserves due process in the investigation of these allegations, as would any faculty member, we have heard concerns from faculty across campus about his hiring process, as well as the hiring processes for various executive-level leaders. Given that UNR has seen record turnover in dean and vice president positions since 2020, with additional searches ongoing, ensuring full consideration of stakeholder input in these processes is paramount for hiring the strongest candidates who have the qualities to lead effectively while also being respected as leaders in their fields.

    It has come to our attention that the processes set in place by college and university bylaws are not always being followed in leadership searches. Whereas the UNR Bylaws and University Administrative Manual have clear requirements for Vice President searches with faculty representation, we have seen at least two Vice Presidents (the VP, Governmental Relations and Community Engagement, and VP, Legal Affairs) appointed into their positions without a search, and the new Vice President for Information Technology was appointed after a search for a Vice Provost for Information Technology. The following table, based on data gathered via NFA public records requests, documents the searches and appointments of Vice Presidents by President Sandoval. In one case (VP, Governmental Relations and Community Engagement), there is no record of the required notice of appointment to the Board of Regents.

    Position Incumbent Date Appointment Reported by President Sandoval to Board of Regents per NSHE Handbook 1.6.1(b,c) VP Search following UNR Bylaws 3.6.3 and UAM 2,522 Search Firm 
    Executive Vice President and Provost Jeff Thompson 12/13/2021 YES WittKiefer 
    Vice President, Administration and Finance  Andrew Clinger 6/1/2023 YES UNR search chaired by Patricia Richard
    Vice President, Advancement Patricia Richard 5/5/2023 NO (interim appointment)  
    Vice President, Governmental Relations and Community Engagement Michael Flores No record of notice to Regents in response to NFA public records request NO  
    Vice President, Information Technology Sasi Pillay 11/17/2022 NO (search for Vice Provost, Information Technology) WittKiefer
    Vice President, Legal Affairs Mary Dugan 11/4/2022 NO  
    Vice President, Student Services Catherine Cardwell  11/30/2023 NO (interim appointment) Current UNR search for VP, Student Affairs, chaired by David Shintani

    In multiple instances, the hiring of leaders has been perceived as being decided by who they know, rather than the qualities they bring to the positions. NFA has expressed these concerns in at least one previous letter sent to President Sandoval, to which NFA received no response. In the case of the search for the Engineering Dean in 2022, using the outside search firm AcademicSearch, five finalists were brought to campus, whose forums were announced via a campus-wide email. After this search failed to result in a hire, Dean Jones was invited to campus in the middle of the summer, when most faculty are off contract, and appointed a few weeks later. Engineering faculty have alleged this process bypassed the initial search committee and that faculty concerns were ignored.

    Recently, we have seen a shift to simply appointing people into campus-wide leadership positions. After the departure of the previous Director of Latinx/Hispanic Community Relations in June 2023, who was hired via a formal search with campus and community forums, a new director was simply appointed. At the December 2023 Senate meeting, President Sandoval said that he was in talks with someone he would like to appoint as the permanent Executive Director of DEI. After some senators raised concerns, he opened a search with a short application window, but no information was provided about a search committee or campus forums for this important position. While opening a search was a promising step, a compromised search is just as bad as no search. Similarly, on February 5, 2024, the campus community was notified that Mehmet Tosun was appointed as the Chief International Officer for UNR–no search was conducted for what appears to be an important campus-wide position.

    The Wolf Pack Rising strategic plan calls for UNR to “Increase faculty and staff diversity to achieve alignment with the National Association of System Heads (NASH) Equity Action Framework on hiring, retention, promotions, and rewards best practices.” Failing to conduct proper searches with input from a variety of stakeholders hinders the University’s ability to find talented candidates from a diversity of backgrounds, and risks people being promoted based on who they know, rather than the qualifications they bring to the position.

    We are not questioning the qualifications of individual candidates, but rather calling for the administration to rebuild the UNR community’s confidence in our leadership by recommitting to shared governance in future executive hires. This work can include:

    • Having search committees and public forums for all leadership positions at the Dean level or above, or those that have a campus-wide role.
    • Ensuring that the chairs of search committees work closely with committees through every step of the process.
    • Selecting search committees that represent a diversity of perspectives and empower those committees to have a strong role in shaping the hiring process.
    • Conducting stakeholder surveys, and centering that feedback in the hiring process–consider releasing summaries of those surveys to the campus community.
    • Ensuring that any person involved in the hiring process discloses any personal connections or conflicts of interest that may influence their hiring of a particular candidate, and recuses themselves from a decision-making role.
    By taking these steps, we believe that UNR’s leadership can correct course and restore our faith in the hiring of future leaders.

  • 05 Feb 2024 6:00 AM | Jim New (Administrator)

    The State Board of the Nevada Faculty Alliance issued a formal resolution calling on the Nevada System of Higher Education’s Board of Regents and Chancellor to commence national searches to fill the imminent vacancies in the offices of President at CSN, GBC, and TMCC as soon as practical, and to include faculty input in the search process as required by the principles of shared governance. It called for NSHE to initiate the TMCC search by May 2024, conduct interviews during Fall 2024 Semester, and select a successor in Spring 2025 Semester for a start date of July 1, 2025. Additionally, national searches for CSN and GBC should begin as soon as is practical for permanent presidents to be named before the end of Fiscal Year 2026.

    The resolution also asks the Regents to restore searches as the preferred method for filling executive vacancies. Over the past decade, small incremental changes in the NSHE Code (Title 2, Chapter 1, Section 1.5) have dramatically altered the methods for filling vacancies for the Chancellor and campus presidents. Traditionally, in the spirit of shared governance, national searches with broad-based screening committees were used to select our executive officers. But, starting in June 2013, the Board began to adopt revisions that have significantly eroded this shared process, favoring appointments to fill the positions over a comprehensive search. 

    This came into sharp focus at the December 2023 quarterly meeting of the Board when interim appointments were proposed for two upcoming presidential vacancies. Despite having advance notice of more than a year and ample time to conduct a legitimate national search while the incumbents serve out their terms, the NSHE Code now requires appointments of either an officer in charge, an acting president, or an interim president. National searches have been demoted and, apparently, only occur after one of these temporary solutions have been put in place.

    This has led faculty members on multiple NSHE campuses to have growing concerns as the process for filling vacancies has become increasingly opaque. The State Board of the Nevada Faculty Alliance urges the Board of Regents to reverse the changes made to Title 2, Chapter 1, Section 1.5 of the Handbook in July 2013 and March 2018, and restore national searches as the preferred method for selecting all NSHE executive officers.  

    The standard practice of requiring national searches to fill faculty vacancies at all NSHE institutions should be the minimum standard for filling executive vacancies, especially presidents.

    An interim president has been appointed for GBC starting on July 1, 2024. This does not preclude the ability to conduct a subsequent national search, allowing the interim president to compete for the permanent position with other qualified candidates from a diversity of backgrounds.

    CSN President Federico Zaragoza announced his June 2024 departure before July 2023. Despite plans to appoint an interim successor at the December 2023 meeting, the appointment was tabled and CSN faculty have no idea of what is happening. What little transparency existed before has evaporated. With insufficient time to conduct a national search before President Zaragoza’s departure, we urge the board to collaborate with faculty and stakeholders to find a suitable acting president, and plan for a search over the next year.

    TMCC President Karin Hilgersom, in exchange for a one-year contract extension and a waiver of her periodic presidential evaluation, committed to a June 2025 separation from NSHE in July 2023. Faculty members at TMCC have confirmed that they prefer a national search to identify her replacement. With 17 months remaining before her departure, it is not necessary to appoint an acting or interim president since a legitimate national search is possible while she holds the office. 

    established 1983

    Nevada Faculty Alliance Resolution Advocating for National Searches to Fill Executive Vacancies

    WHEREAS, TMCC President Karin Hilgersom, on July 21, 2023, gave nearly two years advance notice of her separation from TMCC on June 30, 2025, and

    WHEREAS, GBC President Joyce Helens and CSN President Federico Zaragoza, in June 2023, gave advance notice more than one year prior to their separations on June 30, 2024, and

    WHEREAS, faculty members have confirmed their preference for a national search to fill the vacancies, and

    WHEREAS, the members of TMCC-NFA oppose appointment of an interim or acting president for TMCC, and

    WHEREAS, faculty participation in the selection of institutional leaders is a foundational principle of shared governance, and

    WHEREAS, national searches embrace the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion, while unilateral appointments diminish them, and

    WHEREAS, the standard requiring national searches to fill faculty vacancies at all NSHE institutions should be the minimum standard for filling executive vacancies, and

    WHEREAS, there is adequate time to initiate a national search for the TMCC presidential vacancy without the need for an appointment of an interim or acting president, and

    WHEREAS, it will be necessary to appoint an interim or acting president due to insufficient time to conduct a national search for the CSN president prior to the July 1, 2024, vacancy, and

    WHEREAS, an interim president has already been appointed for the GBC presidential vacancy, and

    WHEREAS, Title 2, Chapter 1, Section 1.5.5(d) of the NSHE Code currently prevents NSHE institutions from initiating a search to replace an outgoing president without first appointing an acting president, now, therefore be it


    resolved, That the Nevada Faculty Alliance strongly urges the Nevada Board of Regents and the Nevada System of Higher Education to immediately suspend Title 2, Chapter 1, Section 1.5.5(d) of the NSHE Code and take the following actions: initiate the preliminary steps for a national search for TMCC’s next president no later than May 2024, conduct committee interviews of candidates during Fall Semester 2024, and make the final selection early in Spring Semester 2025 to provide adequate time for a transition to a new administration. We also urge the Nevada Board of Regents and the Nevada System of Higher Education to appoint an acting president to fill the CSN presidential vacancy and initiate national searches for permanent presidents at CSN and GBC before the end of Fiscal Year 2026.

    be it further resolved, That the Nevada Faculty Alliance urges the Nevada Board of Regents to revise Title 2, Chapter 1, Section 1.5.5 to allow appointment of an interim or acting president of an NSHE institution ONLY when there is insufficient time to conduct a national search.

    The State Board of the Nevada Faculty Alliance

    Jim New, President and TMCC-NFA Chapter President
    Shantal Marshall, Vice President
    Joey Ray, Secretary
    Cheryl Cardoza, Treasurer
    Ted Chodock, CSN-NFA Chapter President
    Pete Martini, NSU-NFA Chapter President
    Doug Unger, UNLV-NFA Chapter President
    Todd Ruecker, UNR-NFA Chapter President
    Heather Reardon, WNC-NFA Chapter President
    Kent Ervin, Past President
    Staci Walters, CB Committee Chair

    Monday, February 5, 2024

  • 22 Jan 2024 9:57 AM | Kent Ervin (Administrator)

    UNR Budget: Misplaced Priorities and Diverted Resources

    Summary and Solutions

    Part 8 in NFA’s series on the University of Nevada, Reno budget crisis. This final installment summarizes our analyses of fiscal actions by the UNR administration and recommends solutions along with actions faculty members can take.

    In this series of articles, we have attempted to shed light on the budget crisis at UNR. The administration has attributed the budget shortfalls to the underfunding of COLAs by the state, but the numbers indicate COLAs are not the primary factor. Long-overdue salary increases to restore faculty take-home pay (just back to 2019 levels after inflation) have been used by the UNR administration to justify austerity measures that threaten our core education and research missions.

    In contrast, UNR executives–who also received their full COLAs–have not held themselves to those same austerity measures, by increasing executive salaries and the number of executives, committing to a thirty-year public-private partnership costing $10.25 million/year, and greatly increasing support for athletics. We are concerned that UNR is following the disastrous paths of West Virginia University and Auburn University, two publicized institutions with profligate spending on athletics, administration, and buildings. As a result, Auburn has become one of the most expensive public universities for students, and WVU eliminated entire academic programs when their promised enrollment increases never materialized.

    Fortunately, some of these decisions are reversible. The key to putting UNR back on track as an excellent comprehensive university serving students and the citizens of the State of Nevada is to once again prioritize our core educational and research missions.

    The fiscal consequences of decisions by the UNR administration are summarized in the following table.

    Administrative Actions since 2020 Fiscal Impact
    Increased University Support for Intercollegiate Athletics (Part 2) An additional $10–13 million per year beginning in FY2021
    New executive positions and increased executive salaries (Part 3) $4.5 million per year over and above COLAs and average merit

    Student registration fees diverted from the State Operating Budget to Capital Improvement and General Improvement (Part 4)

    $3.65 million per year diverted from the main instructional operating budget

    Committed funds to the Business Building public–private partnership (Part 5)

    $10.25 million/year for 30 years; unless additional private fundraising is successful, up to $7.8 million/year will be from student registration fees

    Inflated enrollment projections (Part 6)

    Budget shortfalls of $8.5 million in FY2024 and $10 million in FY2025

    Legislative underfunding of faculty and staff COLAs cited for 100 frozen positions and 5% budget cuts to departments (Part 7)

    Net cost of the COLAs is $8.9 million in FY2024 and $8.2 million in FY2025, after mitigations approved by the Board of Regents in December.

    Digital Wolf Pack Initiative (iPads for new full-time students)

    About $3.5 million per year
    Acquisition and operations of Lake Tahoe campus
    Uncertain long-term impact
    Budget Cuts
    Fiscal Impact
    Freezing or eliminating 108 positions Savings of $11.3 million in FY2025
    5% budget cuts for state-supported departments Savings of $11.1 million in FY2024
    5% administrative overhead charge for self-supported programs

    $5 million cost to self-supported programs; income to UNR administration 

    • Estimated ongoing annual cost for athletics, executives, the business building, and iPads: up to $31 million per year.
    • Each $1 million is equivalent to 10 new faculty positions [1].

    Funding Sources

    As documented in Part 4 and Part 5, student registration fees have been diverted from the core instructional budget to fund the business building while private fundraising goals have not yet been successful. We have so far been unable to determine funding sources for the rest of the listed new expenditures. The annual budget reports to the Board of Regents lack sufficient detail (video) to allow tracking of revenue flows. Public records requests submitted to UNR in December 2023 to discover the distributions of other student fees [2] and Marigold Mine royalties [3] have not been answered. Regardless of the sources [4,5], monies allowed for ongoing personnel or operational expenditures would have been available to UNR’s main instructional operations—that is, for the personnel and programs directly serving students.


    The administration’s expensive initiatives can perhaps be justified on their merits when considered in isolation and if UNR had the funding to support them. In the absence of infinite resources, however, the question should always be whether the core missions of the University will be enhanced or harmed by a shift in budget. When athletics, buildings, and administrators are given higher priority than the instructional faculty and student support staff in a period of budget cuts, the judgment of the decision-makers must be questioned.

    The following essential changes are needed:

    • Every new cost initiative must be judged not only on its merits in isolation, but also whether it is the best use of funds to serve the university’s core educational mission.
    • The administration must demonstrate a commitment to shared governance, in which faculty and students have a voice in decisions impacting them. Shared governance requires more than simply responding to Faculty Senate questions or listening to concerns at campus-wide meetings. Shared governance requires learning from comments made by those who know about these subjects and then meaningfully altering those plans to ensure the university can serve its core educational mission.
    • Reduce institutional support for UNR Intercollegiate Athletics, which succeeded for decades without the higher new level of revenue, which comes from public or student money.
    • The business building must raise its private philanthropy goal beyond the $50 million for the quasi-endowment of the Marigold Mine. Raising this goal–instead of expecting students to pay for it–would allow registration fees to be rededicated to the State Operating Budget.
    • Eliminate the new executive positions established since 2020, and return tenured incumbents to the teaching faculty ranks so they can better serve students, who are currently struggling to find the courses they need to graduate.
    • Cap future COLAs for highly compensated employees.
    • Replace the universal iPad initiative with a more targeted and cost-effective approach.
    • Develop a fiscally sound plan for the Lake Tahoe campus. A business plan to make the campus profitable—or less of a drain on UNR’s operating budget—has yet to be articulated.
    • Grow on-campus student enrollment while maintaining a low student–teacher ratio of 18 or less. Full-time, in-person students are needed both for a thriving campus environment and to maintain tuition and fee revenue streams.
    • Expand concurrent enrollment of high school students only if this program is demonstrated, with data, as having a net positive benefit.
    • For full transparency, resume publication of detailed annual UNR budgets with actual revenues and expenditures by department and sources of funds, starting with FY2023.

    In addition to advocating for these changes, the NFA will be engaging with the NSHE Ad Hoc Committee on Higher Education Funding to promote improvements to the legislative funding formula that are more responsive to student needs and NSHE’s educational mission.

    Call to Action

    The NFA does not believe it is too late to reverse the tide and that, even without a “formal” union, faculty can contribute to helping UNR return to its core instructional mission. We recommend faculty members take the following actions:
    • Talk to your colleagues in other departments and colleges about their experiences. By being aware of the campus-wide issues, we can work together to solve them.
    • Counter, whenever possible, the narrative that COLAs are to blame for austerity cuts.
    • Ask your department chair or unit head to take your concerns to your Dean or Vice President.
    • Contact your Faculty Senator(s) with questions you would like them to ask the administration. Include the impacts on your department and ability to teach.
    • Ask the Faculty Senate Officers to demand full transparency from the administration on the sources and uses of funds and financial reserves.
    • Contact your Regent and state legislators to tell them about your experience in trying to help students succeed and how budget cuts have impacted your department or college.
    • Ask Regents to hold UNR and other institutions fully accountable for budget decisions.
    • Encourage your colleagues to join the Nevada Faculty Alliance to support our continuing advocacy. With greater numbers, we can do more.

    Articles in this series:


    [1] A UNR Assistant Professor hired at Q1 on the current salary schedule would earn $69,383. Adding the 33.8% fringe rate gives $92,834, or 10.8 positions per million dollars. By the Board of Regents action on December 1, 2023, the salary schedules will be augmented by 10% as of July 1, 2024, giving 9.8 positions per million dollars for future new hires.

    [2] The categories of fees collected as part of student per-credit registration fees include State Operating Budget funding, Student Access for financial aid, Capital Improvement, General Improvement, and Activities & Programs. Only the State Operating Budget portion goes directly into the main state-supported UNR operating budget; the other categories distributed by direction of the UNR administration. The expenditures from those General Improvement and Activitieis & Programs fees have not been reported in the recent past, but in response to the 2022 legislative audit the Board of Regents is requiring annual reports in the future for those fees and other per-credit student fees..

    [3] Marigold Mine royalty income is another unrestricted revenue source for UNR. As described in Part 5, $50 million in accumulated royalties were transferred to a quasi-endowment at the UNR Foundation to help fund the Business Building.  [Update 2/2/2024: According to public records received, in addition to the $50 million transfer out to the UNR Foundation in FY2023 another $5.6 million was transferred out for "Institutional Support". The destination of those funds has not yet been determined.  The following chart shows that the multimillion-dollar royalty income started in FY2020. The remaining balance in the royalty account as of 6/30/2023 was $491,542.]

    [4] A source of unrestricted funds for UNR is distributions from NSHE Operating Pool Investment Income. The following chart shows the income distributed to UNR from FY2018 through FY2023, using data obtained from a public records request to NSHE. Normal monthly distributions occur when the reserve balance is between 3% and 8% of the operating pool fund. Special distributions occur when reserves exceed that range. An extraordinary distribution in FY2021 was from the special Market Fluctuation Reserve, essentially a rainy day fund, to cover pandemic-related budget cuts after the 2020 special session. If this unrestricted income is being used for ongoing expenses, the low distribution in FY2023 due to poor market performance that year may have contributed to the current budget crisis at UNR.

    [5] In FY2023 the UNR Foundation distributed nearly $19 million to UNR in program gifts as well as $7.2 million in scholarships. Most of the program gift distributions are for donor-designated programs. However, undetermined amounts may be unrestricted funds; for example, program gifts labeled as program or college “excellence”.


    The information in this series of analyses of the UNR budget is based on public reports and records, interpreted as accurately as possible given uncertainties in the assumptions used for various reports. Corrections from authoritative sources are welcome. Contact:

    Updated 2/2/2024 to include additional information about the Marigold Mines Royalties account.

  • 19 Jan 2024 6:00 AM | Kent Ervin (Administrator)

    UNR Budget: Misplaced Priorities and Diverted Resources

    Underfunded COLAs for Classified and Professional Staff

    Part 7 in our series on the University of Nevada, Reno, budget crisis. This installment reviews the funding of Cost of Living Adjustments for NSHE classified and professional employees.

    The 12% + 11% Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs) for state employees for 2023-2025 passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor are historic. The NFA strongly advocated for the COLAs. We are grateful to the Regents for approving the full percentages for faculty and to student leaders for supporting the COLAs at the Board of Regents meeting on December 1. These COLAs will go a long way toward faculty retention, although the following chart shows that the COLAs still only bring take-home pay back to FY2020 levels after inflation. 

    President Sandoval has attributed “freezing around 100 vacant positions on campus,  along with 5 percent budget reductions for each department on campus” to the Legislature underfunding faculty and staff COLAs. In this article, we counter the narrative that COLAs for faculty and staff are responsible for the budget shortfall. As described in our previous articles in this series, the new commitments of the current administration include athletics, executive positions and salary increases, and the Business Building project. Although the underfunded COLAs are a contributing factor, diversions of resources to the UNR administration’s priorities other than the core instructional mission have resulted in significantly larger budget impacts than the COLAs.

    NSHE’s History of COLA Funding

    When the state has funded COLAs, it has appropriated 80% of the budgetary cost [1], the premise being that less than 100% is needed due to regular employee turnover and vacancies. Eighty percent has averaged out in the past, as some agencies have been able to justify more funding than others. However, the procedures for justifying reimbursement are determined by the Governor’s Finance Office and have varied over time.

    The following chart [2,3] shows how, in the three years prior to the Great Recession (FY2007–FY2009), NSHE was able to justify and was reimbursed for 93% to 100% of the required amounts, that is, more than the 80% appropriation to the Board of Examiners and essentially fully funding the COLAs.

    No COLAs were provided for state employees from FY2010 to FY 2015, an era of furloughs and salary reductions. When COLAs were awarded from FY2016 to FY2019, the reimbursement rates to NSHE were variable, from 2% to 76%. That is, a COLA appropriation in the pay bill did not guarantee actual funding and the 80% appropriation appeared to be a cap on reimbursements to NSHE.

    Before 2019, the 80% rule was applied to all NSHE personnel on the state-supported operating budgets, including the portion funded by student fees. Then, at the very end of the 2019 session, the appropriation for NSHE in the pay bill was only 64%, which reliable sources say was a math error, with 80% applied twice. Despite NSHE and NFA protests, the Legislature only appropriated the 64%. That percentage coincidentally approximately matched the fraction of the NSHE state-supported budget funded by state appropriations, the remainder being mostly student fees and tuition.  

    In the 2021 legislative session, the Legislature created a new budget policy (AB493, Sec. 7.3) whereby COLAs for NSHE budgets would be funded only for the portion of the budgets funded by state appropriations, that is, about 63% for NSHE overall but varying for each institutional budget and the non-formula budgets. For the 1% COLA in FY2023, NSHE overall was reimbursed for only 29% of the amount appropriated in the 2021 pay bill, or roughly 18% of the overall cost.

    The 2023 Legislature retained the policy of funding NSHE COLAs only for the state-funded portion of budgets (AB522, Sec. 7.7). The Legislature funded NSHE COLAs at 65%, despite revenue surpluses and a budget amendment submitted by the Governor’s Finance Office that would have restored the 80% policy. With the historic COLAs of 12% on July 1, 2023, and 11% on July 1, 2024, the budget shortfall is larger and more difficult to absorb through regular vacancies and turnover. 

    This history shows that over the years the state has become increasingly stingier with funding COLAs for NSHE classified and professional staff, and now the state only funds COLAs for the state-funded portion of NSHE budgets. Since the only other source of COLA funding in the state-supported operating budget is revenue from student fees and tuition, that implies that the Legislature must expect COLAs to be proportionally funded by student revenue. 

    UNR’s COLA Funding for 2023-2025

    UNR has a lower proportion of state appropriation (about 61%)  than other NSHE institutions due in part to historically higher out-of-state student tuition (although revenue from non-resident students has decreased recently). For the state-supported UNR budgets, the difference between 100% funding of COLAs and the 61% funded for UNR by the Legislature in AB522 is $10.7 million in FY2024 and $21.7 million in FY2025, based on the data presented to the Board of Regents in June 2023 as updated by CFO Andrew Clinger to the Faculty Senate in November 2023. Roughly 85% of the COLA cost is for faculty and 15% for classified staff. 

    In the AB522 pay bill in 2023, the Legislature gave leeway to the Board of Regents to give faculty COLAs lower than the 12% in FY2024 and 11% in FY2025 that all other state employees are receiving. However, the Board of Regents approved the full 12% COLA for faculty in FY2024 at its June 30, 2023, meeting and approved COLAs for FY2025 at its December 1, 2023 meeting, with the following budget mitigations (Option A):

    1) Delaying faculty’s 11% COLAs from July 1 to October 1, 2023, which is projected to save UNR $5.7 million in FY2025.

    2) Raising student registration fees by 5% overall, with 15% of that amount being diverted to student access (financial aid) and 85% to the state operating budget, which is projected to raise $4.6 million for UNR in FY2025.

    3) Suspending faculty performance pay increases for FY2025, which eliminates the 1% merit pool expense. Based on the FY2025 state-supported operating budget for UNR professional salaries of $144.9 million, that saves about $1.4 million.

    In addition, only 11/12  of the faculty COLA increments and 23/24 of the classified COLA increments need to be paid in the first fiscal year because the final monthly or semimonthly pay period in June is paid in July of the next fiscal year. These budget savings were apparently not included in NSHE’s COLA calculations. Using the COLA figures from NSHE, this means the costs for professional and classified COLAs are $1.79 million and $1.83 million less than projected in FY2024 and FY2025, respectively.

    After these mitigations and savings, the net cost of COLAs for UNR state-supported budgets is $8.9 million for FY2024 and $8.2 million for FY2025, including both faculty and classified staff. That is compared with the new continuing commitments by the UNR administration to other priorities such as athletics ($10+ million/year), executive positions and salary increases ($4.5 million/year), the Business Building project ($10.25 million/year), and iPads ($3.5 million/year). The diversion of resources to these uses are larger and prevent some unrestricted funds from being used for core academic programs. Thus, the narrative that underfunded COLAs are the only or primary driver for freezing 100 positions and the 5% budget cuts to departments is false.

    The ongoing net underfunded cost of the COLAs for the UNR state operating budget is about $17 million per year (after the permanent 5% increase in student registration fees). COLAs are normally built into the salaries for the base budget for the next budget cycle but likely will only be funded by the state with the 65%/35% split between the general fund and student fees and tuition. Therefore, NSHE institutions must plan ahead for funding these and future COLAs in the budget development process. NSHE Committee on Higher Education Funding recommendations could alter future funding mechanisms—a policy for sharing the cost of operations between state funds and student revenue would be desirable. 


    The information in this series of analyses of the UNR budget is based on public reports and records, interpreted as accurately as possible given uncertainties in the assumptions used for various reports. Corrections from authoritative sources are welcome. Contact:


    [1] 2007 Fiscal Report, Fiscal Analysis Division, Legislative Counsel Bureau, (p. 105).

    [2] NSHE Accountability and Budget-to-Actual Reports: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023.

    [3] Pay bills: AB577 (2005). SB575 (2007), SB433 (2009), AB489 (2015), AB517(2017), SB368 (2017), AB542 (2019), AB493 (2021), AB522 (2023).

    Articles in this series:


  • 18 Jan 2024 9:40 AM | Jim New (Administrator)

    The State Board of the Nevada Faculty Alliance fully supports our higher education colleagues in the California Faculty Association who have voted for a system-wide strike at California State University campuses from January 22-26. Despite a strong showing with thousands of faculty, students, staff, and community allies walking picket lines at campuses in Pomona, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Sacramento in early December, the CFA has been unable to reach agreement with CSU management on proposals to improve working conditions, compensation, leave, and equity

    While the NFA led a successful fight to secure responsible cost-of-living adjustments for higher education professionals in the Silver State, our counterparts in the Golden State have encountered an intransigent CSU administration. CFA negotiators have made a good-faith effort to avoid a walkout, but to no avail.

    Unlike Nevada where strikes by higher education professionals are prohibited, the California Supreme Court has ruled multiple times in support of public sector strikes. As recently as April 2023, the court upheld previous rulings that “strikes by public employees are not unlawful at common law unless or until it is clearly demonstrated that such a strike creates a substantial and imminent threat to the health or safety of the public.” In multiple cases, including several involving higher education, the Court has affirmed, “[w]hen an employer refuses to yield, whether on questions concerning its bargaining proposals or alleged unfair conduct, a strike becomes the ultimate, and often only, recourse available to employees.” For CFA, the strike is clearly a last resort. The Nevada Faculty Alliance stands in solidarity. We encourage our members to lend a hand to the effort in any way they feel is suitable.

    • Join a picket line if you can - Site information available in registration form
    • Submit a verbal or written public comment during the January 30 meeting of the CSU Board of Trustees. Members of the public who wish to offer public comment during the meeting may do so in-person or virtually/telephonically by providing a written request to
    • Donate to the strike hardship relief fund (details to follow)
  • 16 Jan 2024 6:00 AM | Kent Ervin (Administrator)

    UNR Budget: Misplaced Priorities and Diverted Resources

    Mismanaged Budgets Based on Inflated Enrollment Projections

    Part 6 in NFA’s series on the budget situation at the University of Nevada, Reno. This installment addresses the impact of lower-than-projected enrollment growth on budgets.

    The UNR administration attributes budget shortfalls of $8.5 million in FY2024 and $10.0 million in FY2025 to “lower-than-projected enrollments.” That missing revenue—from the equivalent of 1,079 full-time undergraduates in FY2024 and 1,187 in FY2025—could have funded 85 to 100 new faculty hires [1]. UNR also budgeted for overly optimistic enrollment numbers and revenue in FY2022 and FY2023. The extra projected available revenue may have spurred the upper administration to divert monies from the core educational mission to non-instructional purposes such as athletics, new administrative positions, and the new business building, contributing to the 5% cuts now being made to departments serving students.

    UNR Enrollment Trends

    President Sandoval touted a 4% increase in student enrollment for Fall 2023, but that was a preliminary headcount, not Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) student enrollment. Revenue tracks FTE enrollment and student credit hours, not headcounts. The following chart shows that FTE student enrollments at UNR peaked in FY2018 and have declined since then. FTE enrollments did not revive after the pandemic-related declines in 2020. Preliminary Fall 2023 FTE enrollment increased by only 0.2% from Fall 2022—essentially flat. [Updated 1/25/2024: Final Fall 2023 FTE enrollment was up 0.6% from Fall 2022.]

    The 4% increase President Sandoval references is due to the expansion of low-credit dual and concurrent enrollment of high school students (1,917 in Fall 2023, according to the UNR Enrollment Dashboard ) Although concurrent enrollment counts toward Weighted Student Credit Hours (WSCH) in the state funding distribution formula, students pay only $75 for each three-credit course as compared to $788 in registration fees received from on-campus students. The hope is that the expansion of concurrent enrollment programs will result in student recruitment, but those students would not be taking the courses they took in high school and paying those registration fees. Despite requests from faculty senators, the administration has not provided data on whether the program, now in its third year, is boosting recruitment.

    [Updated 1/125/2024: On 1/18/2024, Vice Provost Shintani reported to the Faculty Senate that there are 5000 unduplicated students enrolled in concurrent courses, and that 30% of the senior students in those courses have applied to UNR. It was unknown whether that is an increase from before the concurrent enrollment program.  The NSHE capture rate for dual enrollment students has historically been 57% or higher.]

    [Updated 1/25/2024: The Final Fall 2023 Enrollment Report lists a headcount of 2337 non-degree-seeking undergraduate students at UNR, a 186% increase from 817 in Fall 2022. We are unsure how dual and concurrent enrollment high school students are categorized in these tables.]

    The following chart shows the student-faculty ratio at UNR from 2013 to 2022, the same time period as the FTE student enrollment data in the previous chart. The student-faculty ratio declined from 2015 to 2020, but then ticked up from 2021 to 2022. Since FTE enrollment declined slightly from 2021-22 to 2022-23, that means there was a steeper decline in the number of instructional faculty--while the executive ranks have expanded.

    Budget Impact of Inflated Enrollment

    The overly optimistic projection of enrollments and resulting student fee revenue is a serious matter. The following chart shows the actual revenue minus budgeted revenue for UNR’s main instructional state-supported operating budget for fiscal years 2007 through 2023, from NSHE budget-to-actual reports [2]. Negative values mean actual revenues fell short of the budget. The blue bars show state appropriations, which were cut dramatically mid-biennium during the Great Recession (FY2009 and FY2010) and the pandemic budget crises (FY2020 and FY2021). The orange bars show other revenue, primarily student fees and tuition. 

    Enrollments have sometimes fallen short of budgeted projections over the years, but that generally has been corrected in the next biennium. However, after the pandemic-related enrollment decline in FY2021, UNR budget managers projected a rebound in student-fee and tuition revenue for FY2022 and FY2023, leading to revenue losses relative to the budgeted enrollments exceeding the state budget cuts of the Great Recession. Drops in non-resident tuition accounted for a large fraction of the shortfalls, 79% in FY2022 and 66% in FY2023 [2].

    It might have been reasonable to predict enrollments would bounce back from the pandemic-related declines in 2020. But when they did not in 2021–22 and 2022–23, UNR could have scaled back future enrollment and fee revenue projections for the 2023–25 budget cycle. Instead, lower-than-projected enrollments for this biennium have led to the continuing budget shortfalls. 

    Lower enrollment not only reduces tuition and fee revenue: it also reduces the WSCH counted in the funding formula for the next state budget cycle. The 2023/2024 academic year is the “count year” for WSCH under the existing legislative funding formula for the 2025–27 biennial budget (unless NSHE Committee on Higher Education Funding results in a change to the formula).  

    UNR received a one-time appropriation in AB494 of $1.65 million for the 2023–2025 biennium for WSCH for Sierra Nevada University students who transferred to UNR, but most of those students will have graduated by the next biennium. Zero UNR students signed up for the first semester-at-the-lake session, so future student fee revenue from Lake Tahoe campus operations is in doubt.

    Flat enrollments do not generally mean existing instructional positions need to be cut, however, unless phantom enrollment growth has been used to justify diverting funds into priorities that are not part of the core mission of the university. UNR has placed resources into Athletics, executive positions and salary increases, the Business Building project, and iPads for new students. In the meantime, academic and student support programs are being cut by 5% in FY2024

    Future Enrollment

    The following chart shows that Nevada has a demographic advantage compared with other states in terms of the K–12 pipeline. The projected number of high school graduates peaks around 2026, but then plateaus in Nevada compared to significant declines on a national level and in other Western states. The WICHE projections [3] in this chart are pre-pandemic; the near-term pandemic declines in graduations were significant, and the future impact is uncertain.  Nevertheless, the longer-term trends are based on known population demographics by age.

    Another Nevada advantage for potential future enrollment growth is a traditionally low college participation rate [4]. The high school to college matriculation rate was 37th among states at 58% compared with the national average of 64% as of 2018 [4]. Nevada was 48th in the percentage of 18- to 24-year-olds enrolled in college as of 2017 [4]. The challenge for UNR, NSHE, and Nevada is to increase the college readiness and college matriculation rates of our high school population as well as the retention of college students. Investing in programs proven to do that should be the highest priority. 

    Working toward future enrollment gains can be helpful, if the associated revenue becomes available for instructional staff to handle the teaching load. Using inflated enrollment and revenue projections to justify committing resources to priorities outside the core educational mission is a recipe for the budget cuts to academic programs being implemented now.


    The information in this series of analyses of the UNR budget is based on cited public reports and records, interpreted as accurately as possible given uncertainties in the assumptions used for various reports. Corrections from authoritative sources are welcome. Contact:


    [1] A UNR Assistant Professor hired at Q1 on the current salary schedule would earn $69,383. Adding the 33.8% fringe rate gives $92,834, or 10.8 positions per million dollars. By action of the Board of Regents on December 1, 2023, the salary schedules will be augmented by 10% as of July 1, 2024, giving 9.8 positions per million dollars for future new hires.

    [2] NSHE Accountability and Budget-to-Actual Reports: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023.

    [3] Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, Knocking at the College Door: Projections of High School Graduates, 2020,

    [4] NCHEMS Information Center for Higher Education Policymaking and Analysis, National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, (Nevada data from 2017 and 2018).

    Updated 1/16/2024 8 p.m. to include student-faculty ratio data. Updated 1/18/2024 to include additional information on concurrent enrollments.

    Articles in this series:


  • 12 Jan 2024 6:00 AM | Kent Ervin (Administrator)

    UNR Budget: Misplaced Priorities and Diverted Resources

    Student Fees and Unrestricted University Assets Diverted to Business Building PPP

    Part 5 in our series on the budget situation at the University of Nevada, Reno. Here we examine the funding of the new Business Building.

    The new UNR College of Business Building at University Way & East Ninth Street is being funded under a complex Public–Private Partnership (PPP) in a lease-back arrangement. Since no state funds are being provided for the $164 million Mathewson Gateway project [1], a private corporate entity is financing and constructing the 128,000 sq. ft. building, which will be owned by UNR after thirty years. 

    According to the PPP agreement submitted to the Board of Regents, UNR is committed to payments of $10.25 million/year in lease payments for thirty years ($308 million total) for the business building. That annual amount will be sourced by a quasi-endowment, anticipated hotel/convention center revenue, and the Capital Improvement portion of student registration fees: 

    • An estimated $4.1 million per year is projected to be generated from a $100 million quasi-endowment to be raised by the UNR Foundation. Of that, $50 million is a transfer from the University to the Foundation of existing unrestricted proceeds from the University’s ownership stake in the Marigold gold mine in Valmy, Nevada–royalties from a mining claim donated to UNR in the 1970s (video). 
    • An estimated $500,000 per year is anticipated revenue from a proposed hotel/convention center project to be built on the property, which is near the existing hotels and convention center in downtown Reno. It is difficult to estimate how competitive a new non-gaming property will be in this location, and the hotel/convention center phase of the PPP has not yet been brought forward to the Board of Regents for approval.
    • As the “last dollar” source, the remainder of the annual lease payments come from the Capital Improvement portion of per-credit student registration fees. (See Part 4 for an explanation of student registration-fee distribution). UNR estimated to the Regents that “approximately one-half” of the lease payment, or $5.1 million/year, will come from the student Capital Improvement fee. However, that could be more or less depending on the quasi-endowment fundraising and potential hotel/convention revenue.  

    When the UNR College of Business proposed in December 2019 and March 2020 to raise differential student fees for business courses to help fund a new building, the Board of Regents refused twice. But then a 34% increase of the UNR Capital Improvement registration fees for all undergraduate UNR students (20% increase for graduate students) was approved in May 2022 without any discussion by the Regents (details in Part 4). When the PPP was approved a year later by the Board of Regents, in June 2023, the UNR Chief Financial Officer told Regents there were no new student or differential fees for the project, only the “existing capital improvement fee” (video). That was technically true because the increases in Capital Improvement student registration fees for FY2024 and FY2025 had been approved in May 2022.

    As described in Part 4, the large increase in the Capital Improvement portion of undergraduate per-credit registration fees to help fund the Business Building came with a negative trade-off. Namely, there will be zero inflationary increases for FY2024 and FY2025 in the registration fees supporting the State Operating Budget, which funds instructional and support personnel who serve students and basic operations. That represents an ongoing diversion of student fees of $3.65 million per year from UNR’s core instruction and support operating funds and is a large part of the $5.1 million or more in student Capital Improvement fees obligated to the PPP. All UNR students, regardless of whether they benefit from the new building, will now pay for it through reduced services and course options across the university. Each $1 million diverted from the state-supported Operating Budget represents about 10 new faculty positions that cannot be filled [2].

    The new Business Building—still lacking a $25 million naming gift—has been under construction since October 2023. That month, the UNR administration told the Faculty Senate the University had raised 65% of the $100 million quasi-endowment goal. Of that, $50 million is from the transfer of the existing Marigold Mine funds from the University to the UNR Foundation (video), so only $15 million of the remaining $50 million goal had been raised at that juncture as new donations for the Business Building. Fundraising of $15 million pales in comparison to the cumulative thirty-year cost of $308 million, not including maintenance and utility costs. [Update: On 1/18/2024, Vice President Richard told the Faculty Senate that "over $10 million" in private philanthropy had been raised for the business building.]

    [Update 2/6/2024: According to the minutes of the May 22, 2023, meeting of the Executive Committee of the UNR Foundation, the Foundation approved up to $1.9 million for four years for the purpose of paying the Business Building sublease, as a backstop pending fundraising for the quasi endowment. The Foundation liquidated the $1.8 million unrestricted Stevenson family trust endowment to provide for the backstop funding. The Foundation also waived its 0.5% management fee for the $50 million quasi endowment for a four-year period.] 

    The $50 million of the windfall from the Marigold Mine represents unrestricted university assets that could be used to support academic programs but are now committed to the Business Building project for thirty years. Since gold mine royalties are a fluctuating and finite revenue stream, it is a smart move to convert the accumulated royalties into a quasi-endowment for long-term stable income [3]. 

    Along with the risk of the financial viability of the proposed hotel/convention facility, the PPP funding model carries potential risks. Edgemoor, the development firm engaged by UNR, uses a “progressive PPP” model with a shorter track record than traditional PPPs and potential pitfalls. As with the ill-fated Fire Science Academy in Carlin, the UNR and NSHE officials who approved the PPP will be long gone by the time we know whether the funding plan for the business building is sound. 

    The thirty years of $10.25 million/year in commitments will tie up $5 million/year in student registration fees (or more, depending on the success of fundraising for naming opportunities and hotel/convention center revenue) as well as the income from the Marigold Mine quasi-endowment (estimated at $2 million/year). Since construction is moving forward, the thirty-year PPP commitment is not reversible.

    In the worst-case scenario of no additional fundraising and a hotel/convention center that does not materialize or run a profit, students will be paying $7.6 million/year in Capital Improvement fees while receiving fewer services, fewer classes, and greater frustrations.


    The information in this series of analyses of the UNR budget is based on public reports and records, interpreted as accurately as possible given uncertainties in the assumptions used for various reports. Corrections from authoritative sources are welcome. Contact:


    [1] Acharya, Tanvi. "FC details for Nevada uni P3", IJGlobal Project Finance and Infrastructure Journal, 7/24/2023. [Available via EBSCO at]

    [2]  A UNR Assistant Professor hired at Q1 on the current salary schedule would earn $69,383. Adding the 33.8% fringe rate gives $92,834, or 10.8 positions per million dollars. By the Board of Regents action on December 1, 2023,  the salary schedules will be augmented by 10% as of July 1, 2024, giving 9.8 positions per million dollars for future new hires.

    [3] NFA submitted a public records request in December to determine the continuing royalty income amounts and their distribution. [Update 2/6/2024:  In FY2023, the $50 million in Marigold Mines royalties were transferred to the UNR Foundation for the quasi-endowment. An additional $5.6 million was transferred to "Institutional Support" (program destination to be determined), leaving $491,452 in the royalty account as of 6/30/2023.] 

    Articles in this series:


  • 11 Jan 2024 12:28 PM | Jim New (Administrator)

    The State Board of the Nevada Faculty Alliance is saddened to learn of the passing of former Regent Jason Geddes, a stalwart and pragmatic defender of higher education in the Silver State. His record as both a member and chair of the Board of Regents is marked with integrity, enthusiasm, and collegiality. Although the NFA and Regent Geddes sometimes disagreed on issues, he was always available, willing to listen, and treated differences of opinion with respect. Many NFA officers, past and present, appreciated his uplifting sense of humor and considered him to be a friend. He left a lasting positive legacy on higher education in Nevada. He will be missed. 

    Jason Geddes portrait

    Read More>>

    Nevada Independent: Longtime regent, former Assemblyman Jason Geddes dies at 56 Jason Geddes, former Board of Regents chair and Nevada Assemblyman, dies at 56

    This is Reno: Longtime Nevada higher education regent Jason Geddes dies at 56

  • 10 Jan 2024 6:00 AM | Kent Ervin (Administrator)

    UNR Budget: Misplaced Priorities and Diverted Resources

    Student Registration Fees Diverted from the State-Supported Operating Budget

    Part 4 in a series of articles on the budget situation at UNR. This installment addresses how student registration fees are being spent by the UNR administration.

    The distribution of student registration fees at UNR has been shifted from the State Operating Budget into Capital Improvement and General Improvement fees. Specifically, about $3.65 million/year in FY2025 and beyond is being diverted from the core instructional budget into other priorities of the UNR administration. Each $1 million diverted from the operating budget represents about 10 new faculty positions that cannot be filled.

    Student Registration Fees

    First, we provide some background on the distribution of student registration fees, which are paid by all undergraduate and graduate students on a per-credit basis.

    The Regents set the total student registration fees. Since 2019, the annual increase in registration fees has been indexed to the Higher Education Price Index under NSHE’s Predictable Pricing Program. The largest portion of student registration fees funds the State-Supported Operating Budget, UNR’s main instructional budget including instructional and support personnel and all regular academic department and administrative unit operations. Student Access funding for financial aid is mandated by the Board of Regents to be 15% of the overall registration fee for the universities. Smaller portions of the registration fees for General Improvement and Activities & Programs are intended to support programs that enhance the educational or student experience, rather than regular academic and administrative departments. Capital Improvement fees may be used directly for construction or committed to paying off bonds for major building projects.

    In each even-numbered calendar year, the Board of Regents approves the distribution of student registration fees into various budget categories (State Operating Budget, Student Access, General Improvement, Capital Improvement, Activities & Programs, and Student Association fees) for the biennium starting in the following odd year. 

    Shift in Student Registration-Fee Distributions

    In May 2022, the Board of Regents approved the registration fee distributions for FY2024 and FY2025. The inflationary increases in the total registration fees were 2.5% for FY2024 and 1.9% for FY2025. Traditionally, the percentage increases for the overall registration fees have been applied to the State Operating Budget category as well, with minor variations for the remaining categories. That would have resulted in a 4.4% increase over the current biennium in the student registration fees supporting the core educational mission.   

    For the 2023-2025 biennium, however, UNR requested and was granted a 0% change in the portion of registration fees going to the State Operating Budget. Those funds, intended for core instructional activities such as teaching faculty, were distributed instead to Capital Improvement and General Improvement fees. That was a significant departure from past practice, but the Regents did not discuss this shift nor did system or university staff bring it to the public’s attention. As approved by the Board of Regents, therefore, zero additional revenue was dedicated to the teaching of UNR students instead of a inflation-indexed increase of 4.4% over the current biennium, which would have resulted in a $7.86 per credit increase for the State Operating Budget. This diversion of fees represents $3.65 million/year from FY2025 onward diverted from the core instructional budget into other priorities of the UNR administration [1]. Each $1 million diverted from the operating budget represents about 10 new faculty positions that cannot be filled [2].

    UNLV also initially requested no inflationary increases for the State Operating Budget registration fees at the May 2022 Regents meeting. However, in response to the higher COLAs approved by the 2023 legislature, UNLV requested in July 2023, a $5.00/credit reallocation from their Capital Improvement fee to the State Operating Budget category. UNR did not request a reallocation.

    The diversion of student registration fees from the State Operating Budget diminishes the funding of UNR’s core educational activities. Lower student-fee revenue into the State Operating Budget may ultimately translate into reduced state funding, because the Governor’s Executive Budgets have, since the 2013 legislative session, held state appropriations to a fixed percentage of the total state-allocated budget for NSHE within a narrow range [3].

    Trend in Distribution of Student Registration Fees

    From FY2019 to FY2025, the overall undergraduate registration fee for university undergraduates as regularly approved by the Board of Regents increased from $224 to $268, a 19% increase. As shown in the chart below, during the same time period UNR:

    • Increased the Capital Improvement student fee from $16 to $27 per credit (67% increase)
    • Increased the State Operating Budget student fee from $155 to $177 (14% increase)
    • Decreased the General Improvement fee for campus-wide student programs from $16 to $13 (17% decrease), although higher than a low of $10 in FY2023.
    • The fraction of the undergraduate registration fees allocated to the State-Supported Operating Budget, i.e., core instruction and support, decreased from 69% to 66%.

    These values are before the additional 5% increase in student registration fees the Board of Regents approved on December 1, 2023, to assist in funding the 11% COLAs for FY2025. That decision resulted in an increase of $11 per credit ($5.1 million per year for UNR) for the State Operating Budget and $2 per credit ($0.9 million per year) for Student Access. 

    How Are Auxiliary Student Registration Fees Used?

    The expenditure of the General Improvement and Activities & Programs fees is largely discretionary, as they go into separate accounts from the State Operating Budget and are not part of the state budgeting process. NFA submitted a public records request to UNR on December 18, 2023, to discover how revenue from these student fees is being distributed among programs. An update will be provided when available.

    A portion of the Capital Improvement fees has been committed to paying off bonds for various buildings. About $5.12 million/year for thirty years has been committed to the Business Building Public–Private Partnership, as will be described in Part 5 of this series. 


    The information in this series of analyses of the UNR budget is based on public reports and records, interpreted as accurately as possible given uncertainties in the assumptions used for various reports. Corrections from authoritative sources are welcome. Contact:


    [1] Based on FY2023 average annual full-time-equivalent enrollments, each $1.00 per credit increase in student registration fees corresponds to $464,350 in additional revenue.

    [2]  A UNR Assistant Professor hired at Q1 on the current salary schedule would earn $69,383. Adding the 33.8% fringe rate gives $92,834, or 10.8 positions per million dollars. By the Board of Regents action on December 1, 2023,  the salary schedules will be augmented by 10% as of July 1, 2024, giving 9.8 positions per million dollars for future new hires.

    [3] The Executive Budgets from FY2014 through FY2025 proposed state appropriations at an average 64.8% of the total state-allocated budget for NSHE overall, with a range of 62.7% to 66.1% and a standard deviation of 1.1%.  2013-2015, 2015-2017, 2017-2019, 2019-2021, 2021-2023, 2023-2025.

    Articles in this series:



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