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Nevada colleges, universities outline potential $124M in budget cuts

The economic downturn caused by the new coronavirus could force the Nevada System of Higher Education to make $124 million in budget cuts under a worst-case scenario, leading to increased fees for students and furloughs for staff.

NSHE’s Board of Regents on Friday approved a series of budget reduction proposals to comply with an order from Gov. Steve Sisolak directing all state agencies to prepare for cuts of 4 percent for the 2019-20 fiscal year and up to 14 percent the following year.

According to budget proposals submitted by individual universities and colleges, cuts of 14 percent in 2020-21 would require them to institute a “temporary student surcharge” of anywhere from $3 to $8 per credit to generate $10.1 million in revenue and negate further cuts.

NSHE may also furlough its professional staff should the system need to make cuts of 10 percent or more: at 10 percent, professional staff would be furloughed for a half-day each month for a systemwide savings of over $10 million for the year.

At 14 percent, professional staff would be furloughed for a full day each month to reduce spending by over $20 million.

Neither fee increases nor furloughs are projected for the 2019-20 fiscal year, where NSHE expects to meet its budget cuts by instituting hiring freezes and cutting travel and operational expenses.

In presenting budget proposals, the presidents of NSHE institutions emphasized that cuts would hurt research and education in Nevada.

“It is in the best interests of this state to preserve higher education to the extent possible,” a note accompanying the proposals stated. “Significant cuts will significantly reduce the ability of the Nevada System of Higher Education to produce college graduates to meet the state’s workforce needs, including in the areas of health care, engineering, teaching, business and technology, and to perform research that improves the lives of Nevadans and beyond.”

With a projected $10 million in cuts needed next year, UNLV expects to freeze hiring for a savings of $2 million, make one-time equipment purchase reductions of $3.3 million and transfer some expenses to nonstate sources like grants for $4 million in savings. The university also would reduce operations and travel expenses by $548,000.

If additional cuts are necessary in 2021, the university expects to eliminate some previously frozen positions, reducing its already lean roster of full-time faculty, according to a memo from the university.

The University of Nevada, Reno, forecasts having to make $7.9 million cuts next year, and will make up the majority of that sum through hiring freezes and operating and travel reductions. But it asked for special consideration to reduce the effects of those cuts on its nursing and medical programs, “which provide for the further training of health care professionals for the workforce and provide health care services during the training of nurses and physicians.”

The College of Southern Nevada estimated it will face $4.3 million in budget reductions for the 2019-20 fiscal year.

The budget proposals for all state agencies are due to the governor’s office on Monday, after which NSHE expects to receive feedback from the governor.

The regents also voted to extend the contract of UNR President Marc Johnson through Dec. 31 as was previously done for UNLV President Marta Meana and NSHE Chancellor Thom Reilly.

All three executives had planned to leave their institutions, but have agreed to stay for the sake of continuity. Searches for their replacements have been suspended.

Contact Aleksandra Appleton at 702-383-0218 or aappleton@reviewjournal.com. Follow @aleksappleton on Twitter.

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