College funding formula is a matter of degrees, chancellor says

Rewriting the formula used to fund Nevada's colleges and universities is about more than simply shifting money around, the higher education chancellor told a gathering of professors Tuesday.

It's also about producing more college graduates.

"Do I think more degrees are necessary? Damn right I do," Chancellor Dan Klaich said at a University of Nevada, Las Vegas Faculty Senate meeting.

According to the latest U.S. census data, 22 percent of adults age 25 and older in Nevada have a bachelor's degree or higher. That is below the national average of 28 percent and far below states with robust university systems.

Klaich, who has been pursuing a rewrite of the funding formula for years, said a key component of the new formula will be rewarding colleges and universities that award more degrees.

Other keys, he said Tuesday, are allowing the colleges and universities to keep the tuition and fees they charge students, funding the research done at the universities, and making sure the change to the new formula is not a dramatic shock to the system.

The chancellor, who declared the old formula dead, has drafted a proposed set of guidelines to use in rewriting the formula.

The current formula, in place in its current form for more than a decade, is often called confusing. It is acknowledged to be unfair to the College of Southern Nevada and UNLV, in particular.

Klaich said he expects whatever new formula a joint legislative and higher education committee produces will be in place by September, when the higher education system must have its budget request in to the governor's office.

Faculty at UNLV seemed particularly concerned about the push for more graduates.

Chairman Gregory Brown, a UNLV history professor, has noted the potential problem of grade inflation, wherein faculty might feel pressure to push students through the system to get funding.

Klaich, responding to a question on the topic Tuesday, said so many faculty members have questioned him about the issue that he has asked them to form a committee to study it.

"I'm not in this for grade inflation," he said. "I'm not in this to increase the number of mediocre or low-quality graduates."

Faculty member John Filler, an education professor, questioned Klaich about his assertion that lower division courses will receive the same amount of funding, whether they're taught at universities, the state college or the community colleges.

The chancellor said he was committed to that proposal, but he said upper division courses would receive more funding because they cost more to produce.

Under Klaich's proposal, the relative cost of teaching courses will be based largely on studies done in other states.

Contact reporter Richard Lake at or 702-383-0307.