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September 2, 2015

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Legislature 2013:

Panel finalizes plan to send $37.5 million more to Southern Nevada colleges

A joint legislative committee finalized numbers Saturday that would send about $37.5 million more to Southern Nevada colleges and universities than they’re receiving now.

The state would dispense that money during the next two years as part of the state’s two-year budgeting process.

The four Northern Nevada colleges and universities in the Nevada System of Higher Education would receive less money during the next two years, according to the new higher education funding formula plan.

But the changes aren’t guaranteed yet. The full Senate and Assembly still need to approve the budget, and those changes require Gov. Brian Sandoval’s signature.

Parts of the funding overhaul deviate from Sandoval’s recommendations and send more to Southern Nevada colleges than Sandoval’s plan would. It’s unclear whether Sandoval will back the changes or demand closer adherence to his plan.

Legislators also voted to approve more Southern Nevada funding than a recommendation from the Board of Regents, the elected board that manages the university system.

In addition to the recommendations to college and universities, legislators also considered giving a total of about $1 million to the dental and law schools at UNLV.

That money would smooth over the funding formula changes so the two schools wouldn’t lose money.

A legislative committee in charge of appropriating state money approved the changes but not without objection from nearly every rural and Northern Nevada legislator on the committee.

The schools that make out the worst in the legislative changes are Great Basin College in Elko and Western Nevada College in Carson City. They would each lose a little more than $1.5 million, or about 11 percent of their budgets during each of the next two years.

Sen. Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, said the cuts would mean those two colleges would be “destroyed.”

He said he’s trying to persuade his colleagues to mitigate the cuts at least for next year to give the two colleges time to adjust to the reductions.

“I’m looking for money, checking the couch cushions,” he said.

The College of Southern Nevada gets the most money out of the changes, about $19 million over the next two years.

The money swaps originate with an 18-month process in which legislative committees, the state’s Board of Regents and Sandoval have been working to craft a new way to fund the state’s higher education system.

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. Before, it had to first move into the statewide account for redistribution.

In addition to the $19 million slated to go to CSN, UNLV would get about $11.3 million during the next two years, and Nevada State College would get $6.9 million.

That’s above and beyond what legislators, regents and the governor have proposed during the past 18 months as they debated how and when to change the formula and, subsequently, the amount of money each institution within the system would receive.

The numbers could still change as rural and Northern Nevada legislators seek to mitigate cuts to Great Basin College and Western Nevada College.

“We’re scratching and digging to try to get everything we can out of this,” Goicoechea said.

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