CARSON CITY -- A special legislative committee agreed Tuesday to undertake a $150,000 study to compare how Nevada and other states fund higher education.
The Committee to Study the Funding of Higher Education will hire an education consulting firm in mid-January to gather the information.
Three members of the Board of Regents are on the committee. Regents by Sept. 1 are expected review the study and recommend changes in how higher education is funded for the Legislature to consider at its 2013 session.
The state's colleges and universities have been hit with repeated reductions in state support, including an $80 million cut in June. With the state mired in a recession and tuition costs up, enrollment dropped to 105,428 this fall, down 8.2 percent from 2010.
State Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, said during the meeting that past recommendations on higher education funding were not always approved by the Legislature, but he hopes they will be in 2013.
"We need to protect the institutions we have today and allow for expansion and growth," said Horsford, chairman of the committee and a candidate for the new 4th Congressional District.
The Legislature approved funding for the study in the spring.
Besides six legislators and three regents, the committee also consists of three members appointed by Gov. Brian Sandoval, including his chief of staff, Heidi Gansert, a former legislator.
Gansert said another study, the National Governors Association's Complete College America, is in progress. This study will propose "best practices" needed to improve the graduation rates of college students.
She said the Nevada funding study doesn't need to go in that direction. The Board of Regents, not the Legislature, should determine what practices are needed to improve higher education, she said.
"Let's not ask the consultant to reinvent the wheel," Gansert said. "The NGA model looks like the right way."
Horsford agreed, but some legislators on the committee suggested the consultant recommend proven strategies to improve higher education.
"We need to find out what performance measures work," said Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno.
But Horsford maintained that is more of the aim of the Complete College America work.
"We need to be careful the consultant doesn't duplicate other studies," he said. "We are looking at higher education funding. We have to be careful we don't go beyond that charge."
In the requests for proposals that will be given to prospective education consultants, the committee asks for information on the funding formulas used in other states, how salaries are determined and how libraries, athletics, scholarships and technology are funded.
Members during Tuesday's nearly three-hour hearing kept asking for more information to be requested from the consultant. Horsford agreed to some requests and rejected others.
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