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Rogers to budget cut protestors: Glad you’re here

Updated Thursday, Dec. 4, 2008 | 3:14 p.m.

About 150 students — cheered on by university officials — showed up at today’s regents meeting at UNLV to protest potential steep fee hikes and cuts to college budgets.

Students had feared that a 25 percent fee hike could come as soon as spring semester, but higher education officials now say that won’t happen as long as the governor and legislature do not ask the higher education system to make additional budget cuts.

Even so, student leaders presented regents, who govern the state higher education system, with two boxes containing letters signed by more than 3,000 people exhorting regents not to raise fees for the spring semester.

Student leaders said hundreds more people signed letters online via the Web site of UNLV’s student newspaper, The Rebel Yell.

A large fee hike is still possible next fall.

“This fight has just begun,” said Vik Sehdev, vice president of UNLV’s undergraduate student government and one of a string of student representatives who spoke briefly during a public comment session that lasted about half an hour this afternoon.

Sehdev and other student leaders promised to bring the battle against fee hikes and budget cuts to Carson City.

They plan to deliver the letters to the governor’s office along with a message explaining that students want state leaders to find money to fund education instead of continuing to slash budgets, said David Rapoport, a UNLV student government business senator.

Student protestors from all three public colleges in the valley — the College of Southern Nevada and Nevada State College in addition to UNLV — attended today’s meeting, filling a spacious room on the ground floor of the university’s Stan Fulton Building.

“Let me say to the people in the back of the room that I am delighted that every one of you is here,” said Chancellor Jim Rogers. “My only question would be why has it taken you so long."

Rogers and regents have long called for more student and public involvement in protesting state budget cuts.

“It won’t make a difference how much we raise your tuition if you don’t have classes to attend,” Rogers told students, noting that the amount of money colleges would raise by increasing tuition by 25 percent would only cover a fraction of the expected budget deficit over the next couple years.

A 25 percent hike would raise about $46 million in fiscal 2009-10.

Rogers and other higher education officials asked students to contact legislators and the governor about the budget.

When a member of the audience yelled that the governor’s office “doesn’t care,” Regent Steve Sisolak responded: “He works for you. You don’t work for him.”

Sisolak told students that if “you burn up their fax machines,” state leaders would pay attention to what students had to say.

Of Thursday’s turnout, Rapoport said, “I’m completely astounded by this. This just makes me proud to go to UNLV and represent them.”

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