Nevada Faculty Alliance
 

NFA News Archive

  • 18 May 2012 4:56 PM | Anonymous
    Effective this past Wednesday, May 16, a new executive committee has taken office at the Truckee Meadows Community College chapter of the NFA. The new officers are as follows:
    • President: Julia Hammett
    • Vice President: Bill Newhall
    • Secretary: Julie Muhle
    • Treasurer: Jamie Campbell
    Hammett, who is an anthropology professor at TMCC, reported the news to members at the college's chapter meeting the same day. In a message to the state board, she said, "I look forward to working with all of you," and expressed her solidarity with faculty and staff throughout the state.
  • 04 May 2012 11:59 AM | Anonymous
    This list identifies our continuing endorsements, consisting of candidates seeking re-election whom we endorsed in the past; and our first set of early endorsements, consisting primarily of candidates we have endorsed previously in races for other office. Our next set of endorsements will be in selected contested races, based on completed questionnaires and interviews.

    Board of Regents - Continuing
    Cedric Crear (District 1)
    Richard Trachok (10)

    Assembly - Continuing
    Paul Aizley (District 41)
    Elliot Anderson (15)
    Maggie Carlton (14)
    Richard Carrillo (18)
    Marcus Conklin (37)
    Olivia Diaz (11)
    Lucy Flores (28)
    Jason Frierson (8)
    Joe Hogan (10)
    William Horne (34)
    Marilyn Kirkpatrick (1)
    Marilyn Dondero Loop (5)
    April Mastrolucca (29)
    Harvey Munford (6)
    Dina Neal (7)
    James Ohrenschall (12)
    Peggy Pierce (3)
    Lyn Stewart (22)

    Senate - Continuing
    John Lee (District 1)
    David Parks (7)

    Assembly - Early
    Teresa Benitez-Thompson (District 27)
    David Bobzien (24)
    Skip Daly (31)
    Tom Grady (38)
    Pat Hickey (25)
    Randy Kirner (26)
    Andrew Martin (9)
    Ellen Barr Spiegel (20)
    Heidi Swank (16)

    Senate - Early
    Kelvin Atkinson (District 4)
    Pete Goicoechea (Rural)
    Justin Jones (9)
    Sheila Leslie (3)
    Richard Segerblom (3)
    Debbie Smith (1)

  • 02 May 2012 3:42 PM | Anonymous
    Within the past week, the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents has approved the recommendations of president search committees at Great Basin College in Elko, Nevada State College in Las Vegas, and the University of Nevada, Reno.

    Marc JohnsonMarc Johnson , who has served as UNR's interim president since April 2011, assumed the presidency on April 20. He is receiving $246,427 in base pay, plus a $119,997 annual salary supplement provided by the UNR Foundation.





    Bart PattersonBart J. Patterson, who has served as the interim president of NSC since November 2011, assumed the presidency on April 30. He received a three-year contract for $250,000 in base pay, plus an annual housing ($15,000), automobile ($8,000) and hosting ($5,000) allowance.




    Mark A. Curtis, who is currently the vice president of academic and student affairs at Alpena Community College in Alpena, Mich., will assume the GBC presidency on July 1, 2012, with a three-year contract for $180,000 in base pay, plus an annual housing ($12,000), automobile ($8,000) and hosting ($5,000) allowance.

  • 02 May 2012 2:52 PM | Anonymous
    Editor's note: Tracy Sherman, chair of the College of Southern Nevada faculty senate, made the following statement on behalf of the Nevada System of Higher Education Council of Faculty Senate Chairs to the Board of Regents on Friday April 20:

    On the Public Employees' Benefits Program, some small but significant steps have been taken in the last few weeks. The PEBP Board at its rescheduled meeting on March 29 did allocate – as NSHE and UNLV representatives had sought – all its projected excess reserve to reduce out-of-pocket costs for faculty and staff and their families in 2012-2013, primarily by enhancing HSA/HRA employer contributions for next year. 

    While this will bring some monetary benefit to most faculty and staff for next year (though not, unfortunately, those enrolled in the HMO plan), it is heartening as well that the public discussion of PEBP’s excess reserves highlights the point that many faculty and staff believe – and that the NSHE task force continues to study – that competitive health coverage can be made available to NSHE faculty and staff without additional cost to the state.

    The PEBP Board also, at the urging particularly of NSHE faculty and staff, approved state subsidies for domestic partners of state public service workers enrolled in PEBP, on the same basis as spouses. 

    The PEBP Board, however, chose not to alter the basic plan design, as we had sought, to offer participants a “middle tier” (between HMO and the current high-deductible option) that would offer predictable and clearly comprehensible costs for office visits and prescription drugs. All faculty and staff should continue to advocate for such an alternative for NSHE in the 2013-2015 biennium, either from PEBP or from another insurance pool.

    (Sherman was referring to changes approved by the PEBP Board during its March 29 meeting. Pat La Putt, senior manager of benefits and human resource administration at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, provided the following summary of the meeting.)

    The PEBP Board met to discuss rates for plan year 2013 and decide on options for using the expected unrestricted surplus of $29.4 million as of June 30, 2012 (in addition to the projected 13.8-percent rise in the employer/state/Nevada System of Higher Education contribution to PEBP for fiscal year 2013).

    NSHE and NFA representatives made public comment regarding the difficulties experienced by employees related to the Consumer Driven Health Plan (CDHP) as well as comments on how to use the unrestricted surplus. These included:
    • Utilizing a majority if not all of the unrestricted surplus to reduce premiums and enhance benefits
    • Support for providing a subsidy to Domestic Partners in the same manner as those provided to spouses
    • Continued concerns regarding the high cost of medical care and prescriptions
    • An appeal for the board to consider adding a middle tier plan with more predictable out-of-pocket costs, but with a reasonable premium, if not for plan year 2013, then for plan year 2014
    The PEBP Board approved taking the following actions:
    • Provide a subsidy to domestic partners in the same manner as those provided to spouses (uses $500,000 of unrestricted surplus).
    • Use approximately $6.9 million of the unrestricted surplus to limit rate increases to half of what they would have been based on information provided by PEBP actuaries.
    • In addition to the contribution to HSA/HRA accounts of $700 for primary participants and $200 for each dependent(maximum of 3 dependents) that employees enrolled in the High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) will receive on July 1, use $15.7 million to provide the following one-time additional contributions to HSA/HRA accounts to employees and retirees:
      • $400 contribution to HSA/HRA accounts for employees and retirees enrolled in the HDHP effective July 1, 2012. So for plan year 2013, a participant will receive $1,100 ($700 regular contribution + $400 one-time contribution).
      • $100 contribution to HSA/HRA accounts for each dependent (maximum of 3 dependents) of a primary participant enrolled in the HDHP effective July 1, 2012. So for Plan Year 2013, each dependent to a maximum of 3 dependents will receive $300 ($200 regular contribution + $100 one-time contribution)
      • $200 contribution to HSA/HRA accounts for each active employee age 45 or older as of June 30, 2012, enrolled in the HDHP effective July 1, 2012. The board asserted that this group of employees has been impacted more by the change to the HDHP since it tends to need care more than younger employees and the board wanted to provide some additional relief for this group. So for plan year 2013, a participant age 45 or older will receive $1,300 ($700 regular contribution + $400 one-time contribution + $200 one-time contribution). This one-time contribution will use approximately one-tenth of the restricted surplus.
      • $200 contribution to HSA/HRA for each retiree with more than 20 years of service and enrolled in the HDHP effective July 1, 2012.
      • In addition to the $10 per month, per year of service that retirees in the Medicare exchange receive, a one-time $2 per month, per year of service contribution to HRA accounts will be provided to retirees enrolled in the Medicare Exchange effective July 1, 2012.
    • Use the remaining $6.3 million in unrestricted surplus to ease any rate increases in plan year 2014 effective July 1, 2013.
    • Provide all HSA/HRA contributions to employees on July 1, 2012.

    The PEBP Board also changed the percentage of the premiums that is subsidized by the employer to the following:

    PLAN YEAR 2012
    PLAN YEAR 2013
    CDHP
    HMO
    CDHP
    HMO
    Active Primary
    92.8%
    77.8%
    93.0%
    78.0%
    Active Dependent
    72.8%
    57.8%
    73.0%
    58.0%

    Rates for plan year 2013 beginning July 1, 2012 will be:

    PLAN YEAR 2012 MONTHLY RATES
    PLAN YEAR 2013 MONTHLY RATES
    RATES
    EMPLOYER SUBSIDY
    EMPLOYEE PREMIUM
    RATES
    EMPLOYER SUBSIDY
    EMPLOYEE PREMIUM
    EMPLOYEE PREMIUM CHANGE
    CDHP
      Employee only
    $609.68
    $565.78
    $43.90
    $641.79
    $596.86
    $44.93
    $1.03
      Employee plus Spouse/DP
    $1,177.69
    $979.29
    $198.40
    $1,241.92
    $1,034.96
    $206.96
    $8.56
      Employee plus Child(ren)
    $785.45
    $693.74
    $91.71
    $832.10
    $735.79
    $96.31
    $4.60
      Employee plus Family
    $1,353.55
    $1,107.32
    $246.23
    $1,432.21
    $1,173.87
    $258.34
    $12.11
    HMO
      Employee only
    $525.10
    $408.53
    $116.57
    $612.48
    $477.73
    $134.75
    $18.18
      Employee plus Spouse/DP
    $1,050.20
    $712.04
    $338.16
    $1,224.96
    $832.97
    $391.99
    $53.83
      Employee plus Child(ren)
    $782.63
    $557.38
    $225.25
    $878.77
    $632.18
    $246.59
    $21.34
      Employee plus Family
    $1,307.73
    $860.89
    $446.84
    $1,491.25
    $987.42
    $503.83
    $56.99
  • 26 Apr 2012 7:23 AM | Anonymous
    The Committee to Study the Funding of Higher Education met April 25 in Las Vegas, where Chancellor Klaich was questioned about a number of features of the proposal he has submitted for consideration.

    Some of attendees' questions and comments follow:
    • Should an F grade should count as a completion of a course?
    • What would be the method used to recognize and help fund research done at the two universities?
    • Should O & M funding be integrated into the overall proposal instead of treated separately and outside the formula?
    • This appears to be a “one size fits all” approach to costing out courses throughout the System.
    • How would cost ratios among disciplines be calculated?
    • There is a lack of national benchmarks used in the proposed approach. 
    Gregory Brown, NFA president, presented a resolution of the UNLV faculty senate. It argued that any restoration for compensation ought to be included directly in campus base budgets, just as reductions in compensation were taken directly from campus base budgets in 2009.

    This, Brown noted, would not only be consistent with the practice of other states that have implemented funding formulas based on student outcomes, but would also send an important message to students, assuring them that any restoration of competitive compensation would be based upon additional state allocation, not based – as the Board made clear at its December and January meetings – on student fee increments.

    Faculty believe that assuring quality education through recruitment and retention of the best faculty must be paired with a commitment to access and affordability for students. Calculating restoration of salary separately from the formula, they said, supports these two objectives.

    The committee also heard a lengthy report by SRI International, the consultancy assisting the committee, concerning how tuition is treated by legislatures around the country. The report revealed what many have suspected, that Nevada is nearly unique in counting tuition collected against what is due to the institutions from the State general fund.

    The biggest surprise of the meeting came when Chairman Steven Horsford gained approval to appoint two subcommittees, one charged with looking at how local government contribute to community colleges around the country.

    For links to meeting materials, click here.
  • 21 Apr 2012 10:12 AM | Anonymous
    On Friday, April 20, the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents voted to authorize a vote of the Western Nevada College faculty to decide whether it would like to be represented by the Nevada Faculty Alliance for a collective bargaining agreement with WNC.

    The WNC academic faculty participated in a card drive, in which cards returned from 84 percent of the eligible faculty expressed the desire for an official vote for collective bargaining. This level of interest was not lost on the regents, whose own handbook (and federal law) requires only 30 percent of the faculty at an institution to sign cards for a vote to be held.

    According to Jim Strange, president of the WNC chapter of NFA, the only discussion concerned whether the regents' approval could be made by the board at a special meeting. Regent Ron Knect observed that when the rule was initially established that such action could only occur at a regular meeting, the board of regents met monthly.  In an effort to meet the will and interests of the WNC academic faculty, the regents voted swiftly and unanimously to allow the vote to occur prior to the end of the academic year. 
    WNC faculty leaders have been communicating to faculty and answering their questions about the process and impact of selecting to be represented through a collective bargaining agreement. They will conduct an open forum Friday, April 27, from noon to 2 p.m. in Marlett Hall in Carson City, and VRGH 308 in Fallon.

    A collective bargaining agreement for faculty, under state law and NSHE code, cannot address compensation or benefits but could address campus governance issues, including workload policy.

    The vote will be held between May 5 and May 20, 2012.
  • 13 Mar 2012 10:15 AM | Anonymous
    On behalf of the more than 3,500 Nevada System of Higher Education faculty and professional staff across the state, represented by the NSHE Council of Senate Chairs and the NFA, we urge the Public Employees’ Benefits Program board, as it sets rates and considers modifications to plan design for fiscal year 2012-2013, to devote all available resources, including excess reserves and the scheduled increase in employer premiums, to slow the skyrocketing increase in out-of-pocket costs for public service workers and their families.

    Specifically, we urge that you…
    1. Subsidize domestic partners, which we have supported for nearly 10 years.
    2. Reduce premiums on all PEBP participants to reverse the alarming increase in the number of our colleagues declining coverage altogether.
    3. Address the alarming increase in HMO premiums for southern Nevada.
    4. Enhance contributions, at the beginning of the contract year, to the HSA/HRA accounts and clarify how this money can be used.
    The faculty and staff of NSHE have expressed, in numerous public venues, our concern over the negative consequences to our System's competitiveness in an active market for skilled academic talent. Particularly in light of the diminution of our salaries by 4.8 percent, amidst a national trend in which higher ed salaries increased by 1.9 percent last year, the state of Nevada and thus PEBP ought to be making its highest priority the shaping of a benefits plan that is as competitive as possible given available resources committed by the state and by PEBP participants, of which NSHE workers represent about one-third.

    Included in that one-third are our colleagues among the classified state workforce on NSHE campuses. Among these workers, a majority of whom earn less than $50,000 per year, the sharp increases in out-of-pocket, up-front costs resulting from the conversion to a high deductible plan (an increase of several thousand dollars per year for some families) have forced a significant rise in the number foregoing care, either by opting out of insurance altogether or by declining prescribed cures, especially by reducing medical dosages below prescribed levels to cut costs.

    The conversion of the PPO to a high-deductible plan, accompanied by a jump in premiums and co-insurance, along with the sharp increase in premiums for HMO enrollees (especially in the south, where rates increased more sharply due to the blending of subsidies), has had a well-documented negative effect on our workforce. The University of Nevada, Las Vegas, survey of faculty and staff conducted in November found that in addition to an unacceptably high 3.2 percent of workers who declined medical insurance entirely due to costs, more than 60 percent of those who are covered reported either skipping prescribed medications or taking medications less frequently than doctor's orders to reduce out-of-pocket expense.

    Lest one think this is merely a matter of faculty and staff cutting back on vanity care, our survey identified three instances of faculty or staff skipping prescribed insulin to control diabetes because they could not afford the cost of either the insulin pump or of the insulin itself at the end of the pay period.

    We have therefore urged -- and continue to urge -- the board to consider a "middle tier" plan, if not for fiscal year 2013, then for the next biennium, that would allow participants to better anticipate (and budget for) the out-of-pocket cost of medical care through a separate prescription drug deductible and fixed co-pays for doctor visits.

    When an enhancement of coverage options was first suggested to the board last fall, the response was that modifications to plan design would not be financially feasible or would come at such a high rate of participant premium as to be nonviable. However, it appears from the program's last two quarterly financial reports that, in actual cash terms, the program is accruing money to its reserve rapidly. Last spring, during the 2011 legislative session, PEBP staff told a legislative committee that if the plan did not switch from a conventional PPO model to a high-deductible plan, participant over-utilization would drive the program to lose approximately $80 million in the 2011-2013 biennium. However, it now appears that at the end of the 2010-2011 plan year, when we abandoned the conventional coverage paradigm, the plan had accrued between $20 million and $43 million in excess reserves -- above those necessary to meet the cost of care encumbered but not yet claimed and of catastrophic claims. As of Sept. 30, 2011, the plan had an excess reserve of $43 million, some $32 million above that which PEBP had projected for the legislature in its work program.

    And the most recent financial report states that, while the projected end-of-year excess reserve is down to $29.8 million (due to the loss of an anticipated $12.5 million in federal grants, not due to any increase in claims or coverage), the actual available reserve is up to $55 million -- some $44 million above what was projected in the budget submitted to the legislature. That is quite far to miss the mark, and participants really do deserve an explanation.

    Even more importantly, we deserve health coverage, which is the primary mission of the program, not the controlling of costs or the accrual of reserves. The state has allocated money for health coverage, participants have dutifully paid their premiums and deductibles, and the program appears to have netted at least $10 million last quarter. Moreover, next year the program will receive a hike in employer-side contributions, representing an increase in revenue of more than 10 percent (over $30 million statewide).

    So between this excess reserve of more than $40 million currently and an increase in revenue of more than $30 million for fiscal year 2013, the program clearly has the funds necessary to lower premiums for all participants and enhance HSA contributions. We urge the PEBP board to do so.

    A final thought. We are aware that the staff is disposed not to alter the current plan design in order to see how it works out over the course of the biennium. From a scholarly standpoint, we understand this interest in carrying an experiment through to its conclusion. However, the mission of PEBP is not to show how to get us to use less care; it is to provide the care we actually do need, to the best of its ability and resources.

    That need is clear, the resources are available, and the time is now. We urge the board to commit to reducing out-of-pocket costs and enhancing coverage options for next year and beyond.

  • 12 Mar 2012 4:21 PM | Deleted user
    The PEPB Board meets this Wednesday, March 14, at 9am and its agenda includes an item to discuss premiums, plan design changes and other measures that might be taken in the coming plan year (2012-2013).


    On page 2 of the PDF is the info for agenda item VII which is about setting rates for 2012-2013 including use of "excess reserves". These are the choices they will be presented

    a. Options for utilizing Excess Reserves:
    i. Amend the base subsidy allocation percentages paid by participants in the Consumer Driven PPO High Deductible Health Plan, the Southern HMO Plan and the Northern HMO Plan as provided in Appendix A of the Duties, Policies and Procedures and/or


    ii. Modify the Health Savings Account and Health Reimbursement Arrangement contributions


    b. Providing the same subsidy for domestic partners as is provided for spouses

    c. Approving the rates, State subsidies and participant contributions to utilize Excess
    Reserves

    Page 4-5 states that they now estimate "excess reserves" (above the amount they need to keep on hand for unfiled claims, catastrophic claims and payments into HSA) at $29.8m for the end of this plan year that they could apply to next year as above.

    However, note that on page 26 of the PDF is the quarterly financial report for the quarter ending Dec 31, 2011 which shows an actual cash-on-hand above necessary reserves of $55.8m which is a whopping $44m above what they told the legislature they would have on hand at this point in the year.

    Faculty and staff wishing to express their views might consider submitting email or calling (800) 326-5496 or contacting the individual PEBP Board members including NSHE representative Jacque Ewing-Taylor before Wednesday morning.
  • 01 Mar 2012 10:30 AM | Anonymous
    Three concurrent searches for presidents in the Nevada System of Higher Education continue at Great Basin College, Nevada State College and the University of Nevada, Reno.

    Things ‘happen quickly’ at GBC
    GBC Faculty Senate Chair Sarah Negrete reports that the search committeethere met with its consultant Jan. 27 to get the process rolling. They approved the President Leadership Statement, related materials and advertising options, so that the consultant could place ads in approved publications.

    “After the applications are received, there will be meetings that happen rather quickly,” Negrete says.

    During those meetings, expected to take place in April and May, the committee will choose semi-finalists, then finalists, and conduct interviews and tours with finalists. The committee will then choose its new president, subject to approval by the Board of Regents at its May-June meeting in Reno.

    NSC faculty pulling for academic candidate
    Following a survey of its members in January, the NSC Faculty Senate reported that more than 70 percent of respondents considered a PhD and professorial experience essential qualifications for their future president. Approximately 65 percent of those surveyed said they believe previous experience as a provost or president is an essential competency of the position, with another 12 percent rating this experience as “preferred.”

    Joanna Shearer, president of theNSC chapter of NFA, says: “NSC’s faculty is confident that it is through the leadership of an academic with the unique administrative experience in an environment that matches our own that we will maintain the level of instructional excellence and adherence to the principles of shared governance for which our campus is becoming known.”

    NSC faculty expressed disappointment that an earned PhD and professorial/academic administrative experience were omitted from the ad posted Feb. 14 in the Chronicle of Higher Education, noting that the postings for the future presidents of GBC and UNR
    included academic experience and educational requirements.

    NSC faculty will continue to work to make their voices heard as the search progresses.

    Consultant to UNR gathers input
    At UNR, the head consultant of the firm assisting with the president search, Bill Funk, was on campus for two days the week of Feb. 13. He met with various groups, including student leaders, faculty senate, staff employees’ council and the deans, and also held open forums for any who wanted to attend.

    The NFA’s Jim Richardson, who attended one forum, says, “Funk seemed to understand very well what kind of university we are and want to be. A number of faculty present at the meeting I attended stressed that UNR is a Research I university and that this needs to be recognized and promoted by anyone interested in the presidency.”

    Funk said there were already more than 90 nominees being reviewed for the post, but that more are needed. His firm will release any names to the search committee until all are screened according to the criteria established by the search committee and winnowed down to a manageable number.

    The three vacancies coincided last fall, when GBC President Carl Diekhans retired, NSC President Lesley Di Mare accepted a position as president of Colorado State University-Pueblo, and UNR President Milton Glick died. Their interim replacements are, respectively, Lynn Mahlberg, Bart Patterson and Marc Johnson. NSHE Regent Kevin Melcher is chairing GBC’s search committee; Mark Alden is chairing NSC’s; and James Dean Leavitt is chairing UNR’s.

    NSHE Chancellor Dan Klaich says, “Running three presidential searches concurrently is pretty daunting, if not exhausting.” Add to that NSHE’s involvement in the revision of the state’s method for funding higher education, he notes, and System staff has a lot going on.

  • 29 Feb 2012 5:06 PM | Deleted user
    Editor's note: NFA President Gregory Brown made the following statement to the Committee on the Funding of Higher Education during its meeting Feb. 29, 2012.

    I am Gregory Brown, chair of the UNLV Faculty Senate, and I am pleased to welcome the committee to UNLV and grateful for this opportunity to address you today. I speak today on behalf of the NSHE Council of Faculty Senate chairs and by extension the faculties of all 8 NSHE campuses.

    I’m particularly honored to be able to speak to you in this role, in conjunction with my colleagues, Professor Tracy Sherman of the College of Southern Nevada and Joanna Shearer of Nevada State College, because it allows me to make a point that is essential for all involved in this process : NSHE faculty do not see this committee’s important work -- nor do we want others to see it -- as an expression of regional rivalry or political score-settling.

    Indeed, after decades of working within the constraints of a structurally flawed formula, and in the aftermath of the past four years of unprecedented cuts in public support, we faculty cannot afford to withstand further the cost to our collective credibility and to our academic mission that would result from any attempt to “deliver” for one region or institution over another.

    The existing formula has become a labrynthine black box widely perceived to be politicized and which has cost us, as faculty, dearly in terms of our System’s credibility with our students, with the state, with local governments, and with the community. Faculty have seen our programs and students bear the burden of the credibility crisis brought on by the old formula, and we urge you to seek as the highest priority for a new formula to restore to the System of Higher Education the credibility that our collective academic achievement deserves.

    We as academics deal with each other by making our evidence known and subjecting our work to rigorous peer review; we believe the formula should be approached in the same way -- with transparency, clarity, comprehensibility as credibility as the utmost goals.

    Credibility means in the first instance dealing honestly with our students – and their parents – when it comes time to pay tuition and fees. Considering money paid by students as “state support” for purposes of formula accounting has led to significant confusion. This can be ended by letting the formula distribute state dollars in support of only Nevada students – letting campuses determine how many non-residents should pay their full fare and how many should be on scholarship without impact on formula funding -- and then, letting all students from in-state as well as out of state distribute their share of the cost of the education by their choice of campus and program.

    Credibility also means prioritizing academic issues over the political.  And indeed, the faculties of NSHE do not oppose, indeed we welcome, a formula that promotes educational attainment and degree completion.  Despite what is often presumed, faculty do not fear these goals will create irresistible pressure to inflate grades (though such a fear, if it exists, is likely to be felt among contingent faculty on part-time or non-continuing contracts). We take seriously – every week of every semester – our responsibility and our ability to be the guarantors of academic rigor and degree quality and of precise and nuanced assessment of student learning outcomes. (Indeed, at the suggestion of our UNR colleague David Ryfe, the Council of Senate Chairs have formed a faculty task force to advice the Chancellor on ways to measure degree quality for purposes of the formula and beyond.)

    Above all, we welcome these new principles precisely because the perverse consequences of the old formula were so deleterious to our work as faculty. The old formula led campuses to push to grow enrollment above all goals; there were no incentives towards or safeguards of degree quality built into that formula whatsoever. So a new formula that encourages degree completion also represents an opportunity to improve our focus on rigor and quality -- rather than diminish it.

    Another way in which the formula can restore credibility is to address, reasonably and realistically, but empirically, the cost of degree programs to determine adequate levels of funding. The purpose for which funding formulae were introduced in other states that have multi-tiered systems of higher education, beginning in Texas which remains the model nationally, was to determine the real cost or at least the ratio of costs among different degree programs on different campuses. 

    The flaws of our old formula are evident in that even in the best of years, Nevada provided only about 85% of what the formula calculated to be the cost of our programs. A credible new formula would not be one that simply presented a bill to the state for the costs of our programs. But a process  that finds a way to begin studying real costs on an empirical basis, or at least builds the study of cost into how the formula will operate once in place, is a crucial step towards long-term credibility. Only in that way can the state, can local governments, can students and can the community understand what the faculty know – that we are operating highly efficiently, at lower cost than comparable institutions in many other states. We know that because our course loads and advising and research work loads are higher than national averages, at costs (primarily faculty compensation and infrastructure) that are slightly lower.

    Determining empirically the cost ratios of our programs is essential to achieving another cardinal goal of the faculty for the new formula – ensuring each of our campuses can pursue and fulfill its distinct mission within the System’s strategic plans, both current and future. The actual costs of research universities, of an urban access college that serves largely high-risk students, of one of the nation’s largest community colleges that stretches across three campuses, and of two institutions that serve large rural regions, all have distinct costs associated with those missions.

    (On behalf of the UNLV faculty, I can say there is significant hope that the new formula will better express the real benefit, and the real cost, that a research university brings to its students at all levels and to the region and the state.)

    Finally, a formula that respects and reflects mission differentiation is also crucial, because it is essential to our work together as a coherent System.  We faculty do not fear or recoil from competition and indeed, a formula that allows each campus and program to retain student tuition and fees would reward excellence and prominence, by allowing programs that attract regionally, nationally and internationally to thrive and serve more students, both Nevadans and non-residents.

    But as we compete among programs, we do not want performance-based funding to undermine the work we do together across campuses. We work on curricular issues such as course catalog articulation; we collaborate across campuses on research grants and contracts; we support joint efforts to facilitate faster degree completion; and we do not want the current process to become a competition among campuses. We believe that performance-based funding need not and should not pit campuses against each other in a fight to divvy up a smaller pie, but rather encourage collaboration and strategic partnership through additional investment, as reward for achieving an individual campus’ mission.

    A new formula cannot do everything to address the challenges facing higher education in our state, but a new formula can and, faculty believe, should be a platform from which a future blueprint for higher education in Nevada can emerge. The current strategic plan, suited to the current environment, is entirely about increasing the number of degrees conferred in Nevada; however, the are other imperatives for the state in higher education including research, including personal development opportunities, including rural and urban access.

    The new formula can, and we hope, will allow future NSHE strategic planning to be based not upon one-sized-fits-all goals but to be based upon our multi-tiered, differentiated missions. Investment in higher education can, and we hope will, come to be seen not as a burden to be avoided or as political patronage; with a new formula, it will come to be seen for what faculty know it is: an investment in student learning, in innovative research that leads to economic development, and in an enhanced quality of life and a stronger civic engagement for our state.

© Nevada Faculty Alliance                                                                                                          Tel: 702-530-4NFA (4632)


Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software