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Reorganizing course offerings may be one way to solve budget shortfall, higher education Chancellor says


by Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau

CARSON CITY – Higher education Chancellor Dan Klaich said today that proposals made by Regent Mark Alden to shift teacher and nursing courses from the state’s universities to lower cost colleges should be part of the discussion on how to absorb impending funding cuts.

Klaich said reexamining the way the universities, state college and community colleges work together to offer education opportunities to students needs to be part of a review by the presidents of the campuses of the Nevada System of Higher Education.

“Hypothetically there is a different cost of education at the tiers of the different institutions,” Klaich said. “But I don’t know how you pick up blocks and move them. I’m not saying you can’t do it but everything has ripples.”

Even so, it is appropriate to ask campus presidents to see how they can most efficiently offer educational opportunities to students, he said.

“I think things like Mark has suggested should be on the table in that discussion,” Klaich said. “But to think that there is a simple solution to cutting 22 percent out of our budgets is just not reasonable.”

Alden said the change to the class offerings would make up about a third of the shortfall. Then, all salaries and payroll should be cut by 10 percent to 15 percent to make up the remainder of the required reductions, he said.

Klaich said he will not be recommending any pay cuts to the Board of Regents. If salary reductions are proposed by Gov. Jim Gibbons and approved by the Legislature, then the university system will address them at that time, he said.

Regent Kevin Page, asked for his thoughts on Alden’s proposal to shift class offerings to lower cost institutions, said it is premature to talk of specific types of cuts until the actual size of the budget cut becomes known. But Alden’s suggestion on course realignment could be part of a move to improved efficiency, he said.

Page said another option would be to increase the cost of tuition for nursing programs because the cost of providing the education is three to four times that of other types of degree offerings.

“In that way we could recover more of the cost,” he said.

But there is no question campuses need to work together to create efficiencies and reduce costs, Page said. He cited as an example a simulated lab created at the Shadow Lane campus in Las Vegas that provides top quality training for health professionals. It was created as a collaborative effort by several campuses and could not have been done individually, he said.

“It doesn’t make a lot of sense for everyone to compete with each other,” Page said.

If higher education is forced to take a 22 percent cut, the seven-campus system would see a $37 million cut this year and $110 million next year, according to information provided by Klaich to the Board of Regents earlier this week.

This is the size of the cuts required to cover a nearly $900 million budget shortfall.

Large student fee increases, closing or consolidating campuses and laying off hundreds of higher education employees are all potential parts of a solution if such cuts become a reality, Klaich said.

Gibbons has proposed a 10 percent cut for state agencies and education as a way to bridge part of the funding shortfall. Details of how he will fill the remaining gap are expected at his state of the state address on Monday. Additional pay cuts are likely to be part of his proposal.

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