Nevada’s college and university faculty will get an 11 percent pay boost beginning in October 2024 while students will see a 5 percent fee increase.
The Nevada System of Higher Education’s Board of Regents voted unanimously Friday to authorize a cost of living adjustment for professional employees for the 2025 fiscal year.
Regents also approved a 5 percent increase in NSHE student registration fees, non-resident tuition and distance education tuition.
The vast majority of the student increases will go toward employee raises. But between 10 and 15 percent will be “dedicated to student access,” according to online meeting materials.
Regent Heather Brown said the fee increase for students is not insignificant, but she thinks it will have an immediate return on investment.
“This difference is actually asking students to further invest in their own future,” she said.
It’s critical to recognize that investing in faculty is investing in the quality of education provided, Brown said, noting it’s a strategic step toward retaining and attracting top talent.
On Friday, regents considered two options for employee salary increases — an 11 percent boost starting Oct. 1, 2024 or 9.5 percent starting July 1, 2024.
Earlier this year state legislators passed Assembly Bill 522, which provides funding for pay raises for state employees over two years.
About 7,200 NSHE professional employees — including academic and administrative faculty — already received a 12 percent cost of living adjustment July 1. They’ll receive the October pay hike as well.
Classified employees — typically, employees whose jobs don’t require certification — automatically received the full 12 percent raise this year. They’ll also receive the full 11 percent raise starting July 1, 2024.
Interim Chancellor Patty Charlton told regents that a committee — which included presidents, faculty senate members, students, business officers and system administrators — was established in the late summer months to seek input.
“This has been a difficult process for us,” she said.
The cost of living adjustment is funded by the state at an average of about 64 percent across the higher education system, but each school sits in a different place, she said.
College and university leaders largely said they were in support of the 11 percent cost of living adjustment. But they said there will be consequences, which could include eliminating some positions or leaving them vacant.
Regents heard about 1 hour, 40 minutes of public comments at Friday’s meeting, including comments about salary increases.
Some speakers said their departments are losing faculty due to low pay and an increased cost of living, noting that it’s also a struggle to recruit.
“We understand sacrifice as a faculty, but we also understand inflation and cost of living,” said Glynda White, a business professor at the College of Southern Nevada.
The 11 percent cost of living adjustment is desperately needed and “earnestly earned,” she said.
Kinsey Wright, an assistant professor of special education at Nevada State University, said she seeks out extra work to make ends meet. She taught four extra classes last school year and hopes to do the same this year.
“This money goes toward bills and other daily living expenses,” she said.
Wright said that if someone had told her 20 years ago that she’d be 42 years old, have a doctoral degree and be a college professor and still be priced out of buying a house and need a side gig to pay the bills, she would have laughed.
Faculty aren’t greedy and simply want to earn a salary to help them pay their bills with less stress, she said.
Student government representatives said they support the pay raise for employees and the increase in student fees.
“Our professors could easily choose lucrative opportunities in the private sector, but they actually choose to invest in us,” said Alexia Rivera Perez, student body executive vice president at Nevada State University.
She said her professors have had a profound impact on her education and inspired her to dream beyond societal expectations.
Professors deserve more than a livable wage, Rivera Perez said, noting they deserve gratitude.
Fee increases are often met with apprehension, but it’s an investment in students’ future, she said.
But Taissa Lytchenko, a graduate student at University of Nevada, Reno, said she receives a $900 stipend per month and she’s forced to work three jobs outside of the university to cover her bills.
“The choices you have before you today directly pin students versus our deserving faculty,” she said. “Somehow, these are the only options — the only fair options — we could come up with.”
Recommendation for CSN interim president
On Thursday — the first day of their quarterly meeting — regents were originally slated to consider appointing James McCoy as the College of Southern Nevada’s interim president starting July 1, 2024.
But Board Chair Byron Brooks said the agenda item was being pulled and will come back during a Dec. 12 special meeting. He didn’t provide further explanation.
In June, CSN President Federico Zaragoza — who has been on the job since 2018 — announced that he won’t seek an extension to his contract, which expires at the end of June 2024.
The community college has three Las Vegas Valley campuses.
Regents heard public comments Thursday that were overwhelmingly in support of McCoy, who is currently the college’s vice president of academic affairs.
Jodie Mandel, a communication professor and an executive board member for CSN’s Nevada Faculty Alliance chapter, said she was thrilled to learn McCoy was recommended as interim president.
“I think there is no one better to serve in this role,” she said.
Mandel said it seems like a “natural and seamless transition” for the college.
But Arnold Bell, a communication professor at CSN, expressed concerns about McCoy and cited a comment that he said McCoy made in 2005 during a communication department meeting.
“As a black professional, I am gravely concerned about Dr. McCoy representing a minority- and Hispanic-serving institution like the College of Southern Nevada,” he said. “We can ill-afford to have a racially insensitive candidate leading one of Nevada’s most ethnically diverse post-secondary institutions.”
Bell said that McCoy isn’t a champion of diversity and lacks experience in leading an executive administrative team.
CSN Faculty Senate Chair Patrick Villa said he believes that McCoy would be a great person for a reorganization at the college and that’s what is needed right now.
He likened CSN to being “the Titanic of NSHE” as the biggest school within the higher education system. He said the college is having some trouble right now and is sinking a little bit.
Villa said there are a lot of upper leadership issues at the college and that the college has already hit the iceberg.