High school, college students to protest state education cuts

The state's college students are fed up and they're not going to take it anymore.

They'll deliver that message Monday to legislators in Carson City.

"This is our call to action," said Kyle George, president of UNLV's Graduate and Professional Student Association and the chairman of the Nevada Student Alliance, a coalition of student government representatives from all of the state's higher education institutions.

Students from the state's colleges and universities have seen their tuition and fees rise 75 percent in the past five years. In recent years, as state budgets have been cut, the students have supported the increases.

They won't do that anymore. Not with more cuts proposed that higher education officials say would kill dozens of degree programs, force them to lay off hundreds of employees and turn away thousands of students because there won't be any room for them.

"We will no longer support tuition and fee increases until the state takes a balanced approach to solving our budget issues," George said.

University and college presidents and other state higher education officials have said they expect tuition and fees to increase between 10 percent and 15 percent next year.

George said about 1,500 students have pledged to attend Monday's rally in Carson City, but more could show up. Several buses will pick them up at UNLV, the College of Southern Nevada and Nevada State College on Sunday night.

In addition, busloads of students will come from the northern Nevada community colleges and from the University of Nevada, Reno.

Leo Murrieta, president and co-founder of the Nevada Youth Coalition, said his group has also rounded up about 150 high school students who want to protest cuts to K-12 education. They'll ride buses up north, too.

The message everyone plans on delivering: Stop the cuts.

"We're looking at a 42 percent reduction in higher education spending from the state general fund," said Justin McAfee, president of the CSN Capitol Club, a nonpartisan political group at the community college. "This is just getting absurd."

The group plans on calling on legislators to seek more revenue -- tax increases -- rather than make deep cuts to education.

Gov. Brian Sandoval's proposed budget would reduce state general fund spending on higher education from $558 million this year to $395 million in 2013. College and university officials are planning on a combination of tuition and fee increases, pay cuts, layoffs, enrollment caps and program cuts to make up for the lost money.

Clark County School District officials have gone so far as to suggest they may sue the state for funding shortfalls. The district could see a cut anywhere from $250 million to $400 million.

"We can't do it without more revenue for our schools," Murrieta said.

Contact reporter Richard Lake at rlake@reviewjournal .com or 702-383-0307.