The College of Southern Nevada might have to close one of its three campuses because of budget cuts, its president said Wednesday.
President Michael Richards said that under Gov. Brian Sandoval's proposed budget, the state's higher education system's funding would be cut by $162 million. CSN's share of the cut would be $26 million.
If those cuts go through, he said, CSN might have to close a campus and most or all of its nine satellite centers. The college probably would have to turn away an additional 13,000 students who want to get in, on top of the 5,300 it turned away last semester because there was no room.
Richards insisted he was not engaging in hyperbole.
"With cuts of this magnitude, the entire complexion of CSN as we know it now changes," he said.
During a previous round of budget cuts, in 2008, CSN planned to close six of its satellite centers. Two were closed, but the others remained open because the cuts were much smaller than proposed.
CSN is the largest higher education institution in the state, with more than 44,000 students on three campuses spread around Clark County. That is almost as many students as the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and the University of Nevada, Reno, have combined.
The community college also has satellite centers in Boulder City, Caliente, Mesquite, Moapa Valley and around the metro area.
The Henderson campus, which opened in 1981, is the smallest of the three main campuses, with about 6,300 students. Richards said that would probably be the one closed, if it came to that. Nevada State College is a few miles south. The other two CSN campuses are on West Charleston Boulevard in Las Vegas and on East Cheyenne Avenue in North Las Vegas.
Richards said CSN also is reviewing all of its programs and considering which might have to be eliminated if the cuts go through. UNLV is undergoing a similar program review.
He said he was not going to recommend a declaration of financial exigency, similar to bankruptcy. Such a declaration would allow the college to fire faculty and staff without regard to tenure or contracts.
UNLV's president said last week that the university is preparing for the declaration. Its provost has asked all deans to submit plans to trim $25 million from academic departments.
Richards said that if one of CSN's campuses is closed without a declaration of financial exigency, the college would transfer contracted and tenured employees to another campus.
Bill Kerney, CSN's Faculty Senate chairman, said closing the Henderson campus would be devastating.
"It would have a huge impact, not just on the student body, but on the faculty as well," he said.
"We'd be decimated as an institution if this goes through."
He said it would be difficult to find room on the other two campuses for more class sections.
"If these cuts go through, we're looking at a smaller college," Kerney said.
Richards said the college will ask the higher education system's governing Board of Regents to increase tuition at CSN by 13 percent next year and 13 percent the year after that.
The increase would bring CSN's fees up to the average of the Western states, he said.
Sandoval has said the higher education system could make up for state budget cuts with tuition and fee increases. But higher education leaders have said an increase of more than 70 percent would be necessary to make up all the cuts.
Several regents have expressed support for increases that would bring the state's tuition and fees up to the regional average.
Thirteen percent increases in each of the next two years at CSN, Richards said, would bring in $5 million the first year and $11 million the second year.
But that's assuming the college doesn't lose students.
If it does lose 13,000 students, as expected, that would be an additional $10 million in lost student fees, he said.
He called that a "death spiral."
Like Richards, student government President J.T. Creedon encouraged students to get involved. He invited them to rallies and events, and said they should write their legislators.
Creedon said college students from all over the state plan to rally at the Legislature in Carson City during Spring Break next month.
"We stand united as a system," he said.
Contact reporter Richard Lake at rlake@reviewjournal .com or 702-383-0307.