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Budget cuts over, UNLV ready to move into new academic year

Budget cuts at UNLV appear to be over; it’s time to move on, time to get back into the swing of things. That was the message sent Tuesday by the university’s top officials at the first Faculty Senate meeting of the new academic year.

University President Neal Smatresk said UNLV has seen massive budget cuts over the past several years that have changed the university.

“This is a very tough pill, a bitter pill to swallow,” he said.

He said UNLV has seen $73 million in cuts and lost 700 positions over the past four years. Five hundred of those positions were filled, he said.

This year, state support was cut by $19 million, 13 percent. That is about half the cut originally proposed.

To deal with the cut, some programs were eliminated or reconfigured, and four dozen tenured faculty members took a voluntary buyout. Tuition and fees were increased 13 percent.

Smatresk said he does not expect such severe cuts again.

“I believe we’re at the bottom,” he said, adding that he expects future budgets “to at least maintain the funding levels we have.”

He said he expects enrollment to remain flat, as the university cannot afford to grow, nor can it afford to lose tuition-paying students. Freshman registration is up this year over last year, and overall enrollment is about the same.

UNLV’s enrollment has hovered around 28,000 since 2004.

Classes start at UNLV on Monday.

“I’m sure the question everyone wants to ask is, ‘Where do we go from here?’ ” Smatresk said.

Overall, UNLV will put an emphasis on quality over quantity, he said.

He expects the university to be more selective, both in admitting students and in hiring faculty, and curriculum will be more rigorous in the coming years.

Gregory Brown, a history professor and chairman of the Faculty Senate, applauded UNLV’s administration for working with the faculty and for being able to avoid laying off tenured faculty.

Smatresk has long had a commitment to honoring tenure.

Provost Michael Bowers told the faculty gathering that he expects a busy year ahead.

Committees and administrators will be dealing with general education reform, retention and recruitment of top faculty, reviewing degree programs and implementing a 120-credit limit on degrees that was required recently by the state higher education system’s Board of Regents.

In other words, all the stuff university administrators and committees usually do when they are not cutting budgets.

“Welcome back to campus,” Bowers said.

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

 

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