Higher ed bills defended as necessary

CARSON CITY — Students and legislators Monday appeared to agree on two higher education proposals that would mean higher fees and tuition while allowing individual institutions to keep the money generated on their campuses.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, and Dan Klaich, chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education, told the Senate Education Committee that two bills under review — Senate Bills 449 and 451– would help the state’s higher education system meet its financial and student needs.

Under SB449 schools would be able to charge higher fees for programs that cost more money. Klaich said students would most likely see the increases in their junior and senior years .

SB449 also contains what Horsford called safeguards. The bill requires the Board of Regents to establish scholarship and loan forgiveness programs. It also requires regents to reduce fees and tuition for students in need.

Horsford said the financial support is essential because students “shouldn’t be directed into an academic program based on what you can afford.”

Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, said he was concerned SB449 could allow the state to increase fees to the point that they amount to tuition rates paid by out-of-state students.

Klaich agreed, saying, “It opens the door, senator.”

Horsford defended the measure, saying it’s essential to allow rates to rise because “the cost for higher education for some areas has gone up and will continue to go up.” He also said the change would help save some programs that would “otherwise be lost altogether.”

Horsford and Klaich also presented SB451. The bill would allow schools to keep the money they raise from fees and funnel it toward programs that fill a regional economic need, such as renewable energy and health sciences.

Horsford said the bill provides an “entrepreneurial approach” to education by giving colleges the flexibility to focus on programs that can provide students with marketable skills that are linked with in-demand fields.

Horsford said schools have been doing this since 2009 through a letter of intent, but SB451 would give schools the latitude to focus on creating effective programming that meets economic demands.

No action was taken on either bill.

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