Budget cut plan outlined

College campuses won't close under plans by the university system to slash its budget by 4.5 percent. Nor will large numbers of class sections be slashed or faculty be fired.

Instead, the long-awaited plan released Thursday to accommodate Gov. Jim Gibbons' requested cuts includes saddling much of the burden on students, faculty and staff.

Students at every institution, with the exception of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and the Nevada State College in Henderson could see per-credit fee increases starting in the fall.

Faculty at some institutions and administrative staff at other institutions also could see their merit pay for the 2008-09 fiscal year cut in half.

Together, the moves would save the system roughly $9.5 million, or more than 16 percent of the estimated $57 million it needs to save over the next year and a half.

"The fact is, tuition in the state of Nevada is just outrageously low," university system Chancellor Jim Rogers said. "I think students are going to have to be accustomed to higher tuition."

Regents will hear and possibly approve those proposals on Monday during a special meeting at UNLV.

The University of Nevada, Reno is recommending an additional student fee of $5 per credit. For the typical full-time student taking 15 credits, that equates to an additional $75 per semester in fees.

The College of Southern Nevada is asking for an extra fee of $4.50 per credit.

But under the proposals, the fees, which would go to the college to allay the impact of the budget cuts, might not go away once the college's budget woes disappear.

That worries Regent Steve Sisolak, who fears the fees could become permanent. He said they remind him of the student technology fee he said was implemented eight years ago and was supposed to be temporary.

"Here we are, 16 semesters later, and we're still paying it," Sisolak said. "I don't think that's fair to the students."

The budget cut plans that were sent to regents Thursday are far different from earlier drafts from university and college officials.

Last year, when the governor announced he wanted the university system to slash its budget by 8 percent, officials warned that Western Nevada College campuses would close, CSN would close some of its learning sites and some faculty could be fired.

Now, with Gibbons' new request for 4.5 percent cuts, those possibilities appear abandoned. The governor has requested the cuts to make up for projected revenue shortfalls.

Under the latest proposal, nearly every campus would divert some facility maintenance funds to operating budgets. For UNLV, that would mean classroom upgrades would be delayed, and even individual office trash pickup could go from daily to two to three times per week.

UNR would save $2 million by delaying the opening of its Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center by another year, to July 1, 2009.

But across several campuses, support staff, including advisers, could be laid off, and nearly every campus would implement hiring freezes on all levels, including delaying searches for deans.

"The changes that are being made are not cosmetic," Rogers said. "I think the system ... had tremendous momentum going forward. This will be a shock to that momentum.

"This will hurt the whole system," he added.

College officials warn in the plans that only rewarding half of its merit pay to those faculty who earned it also could stymie faculty recruitment efforts.

Faculty at UNLV, for example, have the opportunity to earn up to $4,500 in merit pay each year based on the performance the previous year.

Under the budget plan, they would receive only half their allocated merit pay next year, and that wouldn't come until the second half of the fiscal year.

UNR Faculty Senate leaders and the UNR chapter of the Nevada Faculty Alliance have endorsed the proposal, according to the UNR plan. The UNLV Faculty Senate chairman couldn't be reached for comment Thursday.

University officials estimate that if the regents pass the measure, it still will have to pass the Legislature's Interim Finance Committee later this month.

Several colleges are proposing slashing in-state travel expenses for administrators and limiting administration budgets.

UNR is proposing saving $600,000 through reorganization, including eliminating the College of Health and Human Sciences and integrating its programs into other divisions of the university.

UNLV could reduce the budgets of its soon-to-open Science and Engineering Building and the Greenspun Hall building, still under construction, by $500,000 and $750,000, respectively, according to the proposal.

Contact reporter Lawrence Mower at lmower@reviewjournal.com or (702) 383-0440.