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College looks at more savings

Layoffs, closures and a hiring freeze. And still, Nevada State College can’t keep up.

Officials there are considering more drastic reductions as the newbie in Nevada’s higher education system faces the prospect of more state-mandated budget cuts.

The school’s president warned Tuesday that the cuts will probably mean fewer classes available, which could mean some students will lose financial aid or take longer to graduate.

School spokesman Spencer Stewart said things are so dire that school officials are forming an executive budget committee.

Among the things the committee will consider are: whether to hold back 10 percent of each unit’s operating budget at the beginning of the fiscal year for a mid-year review of the college’s financial situation; and whether to impose a $5 per credit surcharge on student tuition.

He emphasized that the surcharge has not been discussed with students yet, but would be before it could be put in place.

“Given the ominous situation we’re in, this is the strategy we’re pursuing right now,” he said.

With the state in a budget crisis because of falling revenue, all of Nevada’s higher education institutions have endured budget cuts already.

Gov. Jim Gibbons has proposed cutting next year’s budgets by another 14 percent.

Chancellor Jim Rogers has been a vocal opponent of the cuts, even saying that the state could be sued by “a private individual” for not providing an adequately funded higher education system.

Rogers, an attorney and businessman, will be a private individual as of June, when he is scheduled to retire.

As a part of his campaign to derail the budget cuts before they could happen — the Legislature won’t meet until February — Rogers has been sending weekly memos to members of the Board of Regents and others for the past several months.

The stated intent of the memos is to inform regents about what the cuts could mean.

Included with his memos are memos from important figures at each of the state’s higher education institutions.

This week’s memo came from Nevada State College President Fred Maryanski.

In it, Maryanski wrote that almost 25 percent of the school’s 161 budgeted positions are vacant. They will remain that way, he wrote.

The size of the school’s staff has not changed since it was created in 2002, he wrote. The student body has grown, from 177 at the start to more than 2,200 today.

Already, the school has laid off eight workers and shut down four departments. Stewart, the spokesman, said another 14 open positions that should be filled will not be. Twenty other vacant positions could be filled, but selectively, Stewart said.

The University of Nevada, Las Vegas took similar steps, eliminating part-time faculty and offering buyouts last month to others.

College of Southern Nevada officials have predicted that the school’s enrollment — the largest in the state — could drop by more than 10 percent because fewer classes will be available. Already, 58 vacant positions have been eliminated.

At Nevada State College, Maryanski said, the steps will almost certainly mean that some students won’t be able to sign up for the classes they need.

That could be more than an inconvenience; if a student can’t get a class he or she needs for graduation, it could delay graduation.

It could also mean the loss of financial aid. To qualify, students must be enrolled full time, which means 12 credits or about four classes. If all classes are not available, the student might not qualify and have to drop out.

Regents, who are meeting this week, will receive an update on the budget situation.

Board Chairman Michael Wixom has pitched a moratorium on new programs at the state’s schools to save money.

“It’s hard to justify budget cuts when we’re implementing new programs,” he said.

The moratorium wouldn’t include self-supporting programs, but would include all other new programs.

No new programs are being pitched at Nevada State College, although the school does have one bright spot to focus on. Its first permanent building is slated to open this semester.

Since the school opened six years ago, students and staff have been housed in a remodeled vitamin factory.

The new Liberal Arts and Sciences Building will be 42,000 square feet. Faculty spent the last several days moving in to prepare for the start of school on Aug. 25.

Contact reporter Richard Lake at rlake@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0307.

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