University of Nevada, Reno President Brian Sandoval on Thursday spent a good portion of his State of the University address highlighting the faculty, administration, programs and campus capital improvements that he said demonstrate the excellence of the institution.
However, the university’s legislative priorities, which include asking lawmakers to fully restore funding cut from the school so employees could receive pay increases, were important enough that he mentioned it twice.
“We can’t afford to lose good people or miss the opportunities to recruit the best and brightest to our campus,” Sandoval said. “Our faculty and staff need a significant cost of living adjustment for the coming biennium, now more than ever, given inflation and the cost of living in northern Nevada.”
Sandoval said adoption of an inflationary index for state funding would help keep pace with future salary adjustments and other operating pressures from rising inflation.
The university’s budget is $16.8 million short this year, in part because of budget cuts yet to be fully restored that were put in place early on in the pandemic. In 2020, those cuts led to furlough days for staff, a hiring freeze and per credit surcharges for students.
Enrollment at the university rebounded slightly after the pandemic, but has dropped again this year. Sandoval cited a handful of reasons for the decline, including fewer high school seniors in Nevada, pandemic pressures on students and changing enrollment rules at California schools.
UNR’s Concurrent Enrollment Initiative is one way the school is working to keep Nevada students in-state for college. More than 2,000 students in southern Nevada are enrolled in both high school and UNR courses.
Sandoval said he’d be working with Susan Enfield, Washoe County’s new superintendent of schools, to explore expanding the initiative to local high school students.
Another priority Sandoval said he’d be bringing to the legislature in February is increasing state funding for graduate student stipends and additional graduate student positions.
Sandoval’s third legislative priority is securing funding for a new life sciences building on campus.
“The Fleischmann Agriculture building was built in 1958 and simply cannot meet the needs of modern research,” Sandoval said.
He added that other new buildings and updates are in the works.
Improvements to women’s athletic facilities include new women’s sports locker rooms, a newly resurfaced track and new turf on the softball diamond.
The School of Public Health is also planned to move into the Nevada State Public Health Lab building once construction wraps on the new lab building. Funding for a new public health lab on UNR’s campus – $75 million – was approved by the Interim Finance Committee and Gov. Steve Sisolak this year. An additional $3 million was appropriated to remodel the existing lab building.
Despite budget challenges, the university has continued to expand its footprint with projects that were underway before the current funding woes.
The Gateway Parking Complex between the university’s Morrill Hall and Interstate 80 is nearly complete. It is the first of several planned developments south of the campus’ original footprint.
Sandoval also showed new drawings for the new 120,000-square-foot College of Business building, which is planned to take up a city block along Virginia Street between Ninth and Interstate 80. The building will include a conference and hospitality venue in addition to student and faculty spaces.
Sandoval clarifies Great Basin College partnership
“I need to really emphasize that this is a collaborative alliance, a continued sharing of key resources and capabilities in areas like human resources, legal counsel and police services,” Sandoval said of UNR working with Elko-based Great Basin College.
Sandoval and GBC President Joyce Helens presented “merger” details to the Board of Regents in September. That merger, Sandoval said, is focused on administrative efforts, not academic.
“We’re exploring ways to strengthen GBC’s mission and provide additional opportunities to students. What makes this alliance so exciting is how it will enhance our ability to create even more partnership opportunities between our two institutions,” Sandoval said.
He said one of the projects the schools are working on is a Mining Center of Excellence, which will create a partnering between UNR’s Mackay School of Mines and the many mining opportunities in Elko near the GBC campus.