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UNR Budget: Misplaced Priorities & Diverted Resources. 1. Overview

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

UNR Budget: Misplaced Priorities and Diverted Resources
Part 1. Overview

This is the first of a series of analyses of the budget situation at the University of Nevada, Reno. UNR is facing serious budget difficulties in the 2023-2025 biennium despite an increase in total state appropriations of $26 million (20%) from FY2023 to FY2024 for the main UNR instructional budget [1]. 

The UNR administration has blamed legislative underfunding of COLAs for the current budget shortfalls in the state-supported instructional budget. However, the entire ongoing underfunding of COLAs for professional and classified staff of $21.7 million per year could have been covered if the UNR Administration had not chosen to fund non-academic budget priorities instead of the core instructional mission.

UNR’s core educational mission is largely accomplished by the work of rank-and-file faculty and staff serving students. It is funded through the main UNR instructional account in the State-Supported Operating Budget, the budget for most instructional and support personnel who directly serve students as well as basic operations. This series will document how the budget deficits at UNR are caused in significant part by the diversion of resources away from the core educational mission into other priorities of UNR’s administration, specifically:

  • About $10 million per year in increased direct university support of Athletics. [Details in Part 2]

  • New administrator positions and increases in their base salaries beyond COLAs and merit. From Fall 2020 to Fall 2023, the number of executive-level personnel at UNR (Executives and Range E Administrative Faculty) increased by 13 from 79 to 92 (16% increase). The estimated cost of new executive positions and executive raises between Fall 2020 and Fall 2023 over and above COLAs and merit pay is $4.5 million annually. That is an ongoing cost for these positions in future budget years. [Details in Part 3]

  • About $3.7 million per year in inflation-indexed increases in student registration fees has been diverted from the State Operating Budget to the Capital Improvement fee and the General Improvement fee. [Details in Part 4]

  • Up to $10.25 million per year committed to the new Business Building. Of that, $5.1 million per year is from student registration fees funded largely by diverting the inflation increases to registration fees from the State Operating Budget into the Capital Improvement student fee. Approximately $2.3 million per year is unrestricted revenue from $50M in Marigold Mine royalties transferred from the university to the UNR Foundation as a quasi-endowment. The remainder is to come from fundraising for the quasi-endowment (only $15M of $50M raised so far) and hotel project revenue yet to be realized. [Details in Part 5]

  • About $3.5 million per year for the Digital Wolf Pack Initiative, which supports Apple Distinguished School status for UNR. [Discussed elsewhere.]

Each $1 million diverted from the core instructional budget is equivalent to about 10 new academic faculty hires [2].

UNR’s budget officers have counted on unrealistic increases in future student enrollment during a multiyear period of declining or flat enrollment, resulting in budget shortfalls of $8.5 million and  $10 million in FY2024 and FY2025, respectively. [Details in Part 6]

On December 1, 2023, the Board of Regents approved Option A for funding COLAs, which delayed 11% COLAs for faculty until October 1, 2024, and increased student fees and tuition by 5% to help cover the cost of COLAs for both professional and classified staff. In the budgets for Option A presented to the Regents, UNR projected that 108 positions would be eliminated or held vacant. This high number of vacant positions accounts for 76% of all vacant positions to be held vacant at all NSHE institutions. (UNR’s closest counterpart, UNLV, projected no positions to be eliminated or held vacant.) The UNR administration has imposed 5% budget cuts for FY2024 across all university units, while recent additions of personnel were concentrated in the administrative and executive ranks. UNR’s academic mission will be seriously compromised by these cuts to personnel and operations. [Details in Part 7]

These budget issues will be documented in subsequent posts in this series over the next few weeks, followed by suggested solutions [Part 8]. 


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] FY2024 NSHE State-Supported Operating Budget Report, University of Nevada, Reno (p. 29). Includes COLA appropriations. State-allocated American Rescue Plan Act funds were added to the FY2023 state appropriation for comparison with FY2024.

[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.

Articles in this series:

Updated: on 1/3/2024 to clarify that the quasi-endowment for the Business Building is held at the UNR Foundation and was created with Marigold Mine funds transferred from the University.

Updated on 1/4/2024 to clarify that the $5.8 million increase in base salaries for executive-level administrators is for the entire group, not just for the 13 additional positions.

Updated on 1/8/2024 to report the cost of new executive positions and increased executive salaries net of regular COLA and merit increase and including fringe rate, per calculation in part 3.

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