The state's college and university presidents said Thursday that their schools would be decimated by the governor's budget cut proposals.
"That is our reality," said Carol Lucey, president of Western Nevada College, a community college in rural Northern Nevada.
Taken all together, the state's higher education system would see cuts of 29 percent when comparing the current fiscal year with the final year in Gov. Brian Sandoval's proposed budget, Chancellor Dan Klaich told the system's Board of Regents at a special meeting held to discuss the cuts.
The College of Southern Nevada would lose $26 million over two years. Nevada State College would lose more than $5 million. The University of Nevada, Las Vegas would lose $47 million.
Those cuts could mean massive tuition and fee increases, hundreds of layoffs, fewer classes and the elimination of some programs, the presidents said.
"Our mission as an affordable access institution is eroded further," CSN President Michael Richards said.
CSN, the largest higher education institution in the state with 44,000 students, already had to turn away more than 5,000 students last semester because there was no more room. Richards said CSN could lose 13,000 more students .
He called that "staggering." Such a loss would shrink its enrollment to that of more than a decade ago.
Nevada State College could cover the cuts with a combination of job cuts, fee increases and the elimination of classes, President Leslie Di Mare said.
She said increasing student fees by 44 percent, cutting 21 jobs and cutting 26 percent of the part-time instructor budget could do it. That would mean losing about 200 classes, she said, which would lead to an inevitable enrollment decline.
The college, the fastest-growing in the state, would see drops in retention rates and graduation rates, she said.
UNLV President Neal Smatresk said tuition and fee increases would not raise nearly enough money to cover the university's loss.
He said the only way to make up the rest would be to eliminate the equivalent of two or three of the university's colleges.
That would mean hundreds of jobs and as many as 6,000 students gone. UNLV's enrollment is about 29,000 students. Losing that many students would bring it back to 2001 enrollment levels.
Regents said they wanted to make sure that UNLV, the state college and the University of Nevada, Reno, work together so they would not all shut down the same programs.
The board is expected to discuss potential wage reductions, tuition and fee increases and program eliminations at its meeting next month.
Contact reporter Richard Lake at rlake@reviewjournal .com or 702-383-0307.