Investment successes may bring big payout to Nevada colleges

Schools across the Nevada System of Higher Education may soon see an influx of $25 million, and it’s not from taxpayers or student fee hikes.

The state Board of Regents will likely approve during their special meeting Friday a one-time distribution of funds from its investment operating pool, which is at historic highs.

“This doesn’t happen all the time,” said Chet Burton, NSHE’s chief financial officer. “I can’t see it as anything but positive. This is money that’s going right back into helping the students without raising tuition and asking the taxpayers for more money.”

Burton said the balance from NSHE’s investments has built up over the usual 2 percent yearly distribution that is paid out to its schools in monthly installments.

“In light of that fact, the board has made the decision to do this one-time distribution and spread it across all the institutions,” he said.

UNLV will get the biggest chunk — $7.5 million. The College of Southern Nevada and the University of Nevada, Reno, will each receive $5 million.

The last time NSHE used a significant portion from its investments was with the $41 million purchase of Workday — the new software system used to manage money and employees. The software went live on Oct. 1.

Burton said NSHE works with Cambridge Associates, a San Francisco-based investment manager, to help make its investment decisions. NSHE pools cash from all institutions — instead of each school investing individually — which allows the system to be “a little more aggressive” with its investing philosophy.

The system has more than $800 million, which Burton says is a “significant” amount of money, yet the board doesn’t take “undue risks.”

“We don’t go out and buy hedge funds or any speculative stocks,” Burton said. “It’s all very conservative.”

He said a diversified mix of investments, including liquid money market accounts, municipal bonds, and some stocks and equities, make up the earnings they receive.

Margo Martin, vice president of academic affairs at the College of Southern Nevada, said the school will use a big chunk of it’s distribution — $3.8 million — to hire more faculty and additional academic advisers and counselors.

Martin said staff increases are necessary to handle the expected influx of students who have applied for the state’s new Promise scholarship program. More than 9,000 students applied to CSN for the last-dollar scholarship, which covers student fees after other aid sources, such as the federal Pell grant — have been exhausted.

“Once we know what the need is and determine how many students will be coming, that will let us know how many more sections of classes we need,” Martin said. “But we’re grateful we have resources that we didn’t have before to address some of those potential needs.”

Martin said the school is still unsure if it will expand the adjunct pool with the money, or hire faculty via one-year appointments.

“We’ve got some work to do in the next couple of months to find out how we want to deploy it,” Martin said. “Right now, we have a finite number of human resources. If this enrollment tick comes to fruition, we’ll need more human beings to teach classes for those incoming freshmen, particularly in the gateway courses.”

CSN will use the rest of the one-time allocation to fund additional late-start courses, expanding dual-enrollment programs in coordinate with the Clark County School District and address high priority maintenance projects including elevator repairs.

UNLV will use $1 million of its allocation for emergency phone upgrades, and $2.9 million to renovate about 19,000 square feet of space on campus that was formerly leased to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Nevada State College will use more than $600,000 for faculty to support increased enrollment in gateway English and math courses, and $261,167 on new faculty positions to support deaf studies and criminal justice, and to expand career services.

Contact Natalie Bruzda at nbruzda@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3897. Follow @NatalieBruzda on Twitter.

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