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Higher ed institutions bracing for even steeper budget cuts (updated)

By Jeri Chadwell
Published: Last Updated on

Gov. Steve Sisolak on April 3 ordered the Nevada System of Higher Education and its institutions to make massive cuts to their budgets for the remainder of this year and fiscal year 2021. 

He’s since ordered even greater cuts. 

NSHE was requested to make $160 million in cuts for the two-year period—$27 million in 2020 and $132 million in 2021. The 2021 cuts will total nearly 20 percent of NSHE’s budget.

These cuts mark an additional five percent on top of what the governor requested in April—reductions that haven’t been seen since the Great Recession. According to an NSHE statement, the additional five percent in cuts will come from NSHE institution operating reserves.

During meetings of the NSHE Board of Regents, board members have repeatedly emphasized the importance of using a “shared sacrifice” model to distribute the burden of budget cuts fairly upon students and staff at its eight institutions.  

During its June 15 and 16 meetings, regents sought to clarify if 4.6 percent reductions in pay—equaling 12 furlough days for NSHE academic and administrative faculty—would apply equally to institution presidents. They do. (Classified employees fall under the purview of the Nevada Legislature.)

NSHE is also using federal funding to help bridge the gap, choosing not to fill some vacant positions, enacting a hiring freeze, repurposing some of its capital funds and reducing contracts.

According to the NSHE statement on budget cuts, students will be subject to a “systemwide temporary per credit surcharge.” 

At the state’s two four-year institutions, undergraduates will pay an additional $6 per credit (2.5 percent) and graduate students will pay an additional $8 (2.7 percent). At Nevada State College undergraduate and graduate students will pay $5 extra per credit (2.9 percent, and 2.1 percent, respectively).

At NSHE’s other four institutions—Great Basin College, College of Southern Nevada, Truckee Meadows Community College and Western Nevada College—undergraduate and graduate students will pay an additional $3 per credit.

“The surcharge was calculated in proportion to current student fees at NSHE’s institutions,” said NSHE Public Information Officer Francis McCabe. 

He said the percentages are based on NSHE’s registration fee rates as published in the Procedures and Guidelines Manual, Chapter 7, Section 1.

The higher fees for graduate students at NSHE’s two-four year institutions come as master’s and Ph.D. seekers across the country are struggling to stay on track for graduation. According to an April report in online publication Inside Higher Ed, graduate students at institutions from coast to coast are seeking extended funding—and time-to-degree extensions. 

Graduate students at most institutions are expected to complete their research and degree requirements within a certain time or risk dismissal. Graduate students have not qualified for federally subsidized loans since 2012, meaning they’ll begin accruing interest on the costlier credits immediately.

Graduate students at NSHE institutions are among those contributing research to the fight against the novel coronavirus, something Chancellor Thom Reilly has emphasized during NSHE meetings and press conferences. 

“From the beginning, our students, faculty and staff have been out in front helping combat the COVID-19 pandemic by helping conduct tests, performing urgent research, collecting data, and sharing valuable personal protective equipment with medical workers and first responders,” Reilly said. “NSHE will now lead the way in training and staffing the emerging field of contact tracing.”

“NSHE System Administration and the Board of Regents will continue to work collaboratively with the Office of Gov. Sisolak and all county, state and federal health officials regarding COVID-19. The health and wellbeing of Nevada’s public higher education community continues to be NSHE’s utmost priority in this developing situation.”

NSHE is also expected to soon make public plans for the reopening of its institutions. According to McCabe, institutions are currently putting together their respective plans. Also on the docket for this year are searches for a new NSHE chancellor and new presidents for both UNR and UNLV.


A new chancellor of NSHE has been appointed. Dr. Melody Rose was formerly the chancellor of the Oregon University System, Portland State University’s Vice Provost for Academic Programs and Instruction and Dean of Undergraduate Studies, and Chair of Portland State University’s Division of Political Science. According to a June 18 statement from NSHE, “Prior to creating and running the consulting firm Rose Strategies, LLC, Dr. Rose most recently served as President of Marylhurst University from 2014 to 2019.”

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