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July 4, 2015

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Higher education officials say Sandoval budget cuts a ‘death sentence’

Chancellor Dan Klaich

Chancellor Dan Klaich

Neal Smatresk

Neal Smatresk

Using terms such as “doomsday” and “death sentence” to describe the impact of Gov. Brian Sandoval’s budget on higher education, the Board of Regents voted 13-0 Thursday to oppose the proposal.

At the same time, however, they directed university officials to prepare more detailed plans about how they would cope with such cuts.

Regent Ron Knecht, chairman of the finance committee, even raised the prospect of “financial exigency,” similar to a private company declaring bankruptcy. The action would allow the universities to break labor and other contracts while it reorganizes its finances.

Robert Blakely, another regent, discussed consolidating popular nursing programs.

The Legislature convenes Monday and has until June 7 to review and amend the Sandoval budget.

The prospect of academic bankruptcy and consolidating programs captured the severe tone of the presentation of university officials to the board.

Daniel Klaich, chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education, and other senior officials disclosed more details about the impact of the proposed budget. “Tuition (increases) cannot fill this hole. It’s too large,” he said.

UNLV President Neal Smatresk said the school is “taking on water,” and his counterpart at UNR, President Milton Glick, said the campus would become a “Cal State Minus,” a reference to California state colleges without graduate programs.

Klaich said if the university system addressed the proposed $162 million in budget cuts with only layoffs, 1,850 faculty and staff would lose their jobs.

To cover it with a tuition increase — Sandoval suggests giving schools more flexibility to raise fees — the cost would be several thousand dollars per student over two years, he said.

Tuition for a typical UNLV graduate program, for example, would jump from $6,574 to $10,744, an increase of more than 60 percent.

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