Senator seeks to end UNLV-UNR funding imbalance

CARSON CITY -- The never-ending north-south dispute over whether UNLV is shortchanged in funding erupted again Wednesday during a meeting of the Legislature's Interim Funding of Higher Education Committee.

"Students in Southern Nevada are not only subsidizing education in the north but subsidizing nonresident California students (attending medical school in Reno) to become doctors," said state Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, the sponsor of the bill that created the panel.

Most tuition generated in each college or university goes to the state and is redistributed to the institutions after the state determines how much in total support should be given each school. California students who attend medical school in Nevada often receive scholarships, and other students from that state are assessed lower in-state tuition when they attend the medical school.

The University of Nevada, Las Vegas generates 40 percent of all tuition and receives 34 percent of state funding, while the University of Nevada, Reno generates 27 percent of the tuition and receives the same 34 percent.

The College of Southern Nevada, Lee said, receives the least state funding and has more students than any college or university in the state.

Rather than challenging Lee, Chancellor Dan Klaich wants to change how tuition is treated. He and his staff are working on a new funding formula that would allow each college and university to keep all fees and tuition it raises. That would increase the total funding at UNLV and other colleges in Southern Nevada.

If it is determined that 60 percent of the funding for UNR and UNLV should come from the state and UNLV raises more than the rest from tuition, Klaich said, then the schools should keep any excess tuition funds, even if UNR cannot raise its remaining funds through tuition.

"It is not my position here to talk whether there is adequate or inadequate funding for education," Klaich said. "It is up to us to fairly allocate funds among the institutions based on the work they do."

In 2010, UNR received $9,477 per student compared with $7,564 for UNLV.

Klaich unveiled a preliminary outline of his funding plan, which he said would be refined in coming months with the help of university presidents, faculty, students and others.

Committee members agreed he should continue with the effort, although Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, said it must be approved by the entire Legislature in 2013 before it can take effect.

As expected, Klaich's preliminary plan drew criticism.

Nonvoting committee member Gregory Mosier, dean of the business college at UNR, questioned whether the legislation creating the committee allows it to delve into funding inequities between schools.

He added that "hyperbole" about funding inequities would not lead the committee down the right path.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@ or 775-687-3901.