Las Vegas Sun

September 25, 2016

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Legislative panel seeks to redirect funding to Southern Nevada colleges

Legislators today recommended shifting money from northern colleges to southern colleges almost immediately, rejecting Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposal to phase in the cuts to rural college budgets.

In the coming academic year, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, the College of Southern Nevada, and Nevada State College should receive about $13 million more than they are this year, said Dan Klaich, chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education.

Legislators haven’t finalized the numbers yet. But legislative observers have anticipated that Southern Nevada should come out with some extra money in the end.

“That’s obvious by just a glance,” said Assemblyman William Horne, D-Las Vegas, who is leading a higher education budget committee. “How much that is, I couldn’t tell you.”

The losers in the new scenario are Great Basin College and Western Nevada College. Legislators made the first steps to apply a 15 percent cut during each of the next two years to the budgets of the rural Nevada colleges, a move that upset some legislators.

“At the end of the day I’m concerned about our rural colleges, and I want to make sure they’re not thrown under the bus,” said Assemblyman Randy Kirner, R-Reno.

The University of Nevada, Reno and Truckee Meadows Community College would receive smaller budget cuts.

These changes are essentially the last steps of an 18-month process in which legislative committees, the state’s Board of Regents, and Republican Sandoval have been working to craft a new way to fund the state’s higher education system.

Horne’s committee met today to formally approve those changes.

The new payment formula apportions money among colleges based on graduation rates and instructional costs, a move that Nevada System of Higher Education Chancellor Dan Klaich called a more equitable distribution. The new payment system also allows individual colleges to keep their tuition and fee money, whereas before it had to first move into the statewide account for redistribution.

What Horne’s committee approved today is “very close” to the numbers to the study committee first recommended months ago.

The plan differs from what Sandoval had recommended earlier this year. Sandoval had wanted to phase in the cuts to rural colleges, but Southern Nevada lawmakers wanted the changes to take effect next year.

The changes recommended by Horne’s committee will be considered by the Ways and Means Committee on Saturday.

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