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UNR not ‘out of the woods’ with budget crisis

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By Lizzie Ramirez

The University of Nevada, Reno was projected to have a $31.7 million budget shortfall for the next fiscal year, but campus administration said on April 30 at a UNR Campus Conversation event that the shortfall had been reduced to $12 million. 

UNR’s Vice President of Administration and Finance Andrew Clinger said this is “good news.” Not everyone on campus agrees.

“The UNR budget is not out of the woods: it is deep in the forest,” said Kent Ervin, the director of government relations and past president of the Nevada Faculty Alliance. “Previous administrations would have considered a $12 million budget hole to be a crisis.” 

Clinger pointed to three things that helped to reduce the budget shortfall: a three-month delay in required faculty cost of living adjustments, a 5% increase in student registration and tuition fees and improved enrollment from non-degree-seeking students. In a presentation to UNR Faculty Senate members last fall, Clinger said every 1% increase in student fees generates $1.2 million. 

The budget cuts made during the current fiscal year won’t be eliminated. Clinger confirmed the 108 unfilled faculty and staff positions will remain vacant and departments will continue to see 5% budget cuts. Those cuts saved $11.1 million during the 2024 fiscal year.

While non-degree-seeking student enrollment is up, degree-seeking student enrollment is down 1.3% from spring 2022 to spring 2023. Vice Provost Jeff Thompson said enrollment for fall 2025 is down compared to last year, but he could not give an exact number due to what he said were “data-collection changes.”

Ervin said delays in federal financial aid applications — known as the FAFSA — are impacting student recruitment and retention. UNR, as with most other colleges and universities across the country, has been trying to work around the delays and errors caused by a new online FAFSA enrollment portal that’s been plagued with problems. UNR’s financial aid office has pushed back the priority deadline four times. 

UNR President Brian Sandoval said one potential solution to restoring the budget is a proposed 1/8% increase in the Washoe County sales tax. This new sales tax would help fund UNR and Truckee Meadows Community College, he said, and is projected to generate about $14.6 million annually.

“Such a measure would provide a sustainable and scalable funding solution to meet the pressing infrastructure challenges faced by the University of Nevada, Reno,” Sandoval wrote to James Hardesty, chairman of the ad hoc Committee on Higher Education Funding. 

It would be a lengthy process to adopt this sales tax. The proposal would require legislative, Washoe County Commission and, possibly, voter approval, according to Ervin. 

“New revenue to fund higher education is highly desirable,” Ervin said. “But this is apparently the first time since 1885 that county taxpayers have been asked to fund the state university.”

One speaker at the Campus Conversations event also noted that sales taxes are considered “regressive,” placing a higher burden on those with lower incomes.

No information was given about how the $12 million shortfall will be addressed beginning the new fiscal year on July 1.  

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