Nevada colleges, universities battle over tuition distribution

Students paid Nevada’s colleges and universities more than $220 million in tuition and fees last year, but higher education officials say it’s not enough.

It’s not enough, they say, because the colleges and universities don’t really get to keep all that money. An outdated funding formula gets the blame.

"It becomes a particularly irritating issue with UNLV when you look at out-of-state tuition," higher education Chancellor Dan Klaich said. "That’s the elephant in the room."

Out-of-state students pay roughly $19,000 a year at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, which is about three times what a Nevada resident pays.

And that’s a big deal at UNLV, which President Neal Smatresk said has students from all 50 states and 84 countries this year. The university’s highly regarded Harrah College of Hotel Administration is a particular draw.

Figures from the state’s higher education system show that UNLV collects 60 percent of all the out-of-state tuition paid in the state, $30 million of the entire $50 million.

But because of the way the higher education system is funded, the university doesn’t get to keep the $30 million.

Smatresk said the university actually loses $16 million or $17 million of that money every year. It essentially gets funneled back into the system’s budget and split by the rest of the schools, he said.

Which is partly why he is pushing for another tuition and fee increase, maybe as much as 10 percent.

After years of budget cuts, he said, the university has shrunk too much in some critical areas. Class sizes have grown too large. The university has become too dependent on part-time instructors.

Smatresk wants to use the extra money from another tuition increase to lessen those problems by hiring a few key faculty members.

But he said he would not ask for a tuition increase at all if the university were able to keep all the out-of-state tuition it collects. There would be no need.

Student fees have already increased 73 percent at UNLV since 2007, according to figures from the university. Students say they are tired of paying more money only to have the budgets cut anyway.

"I think if we see it on our campus, in projects or in more faculty, it gives students the feeling that they’re paying more for something better, not just the same thing," said Sara Saenz, the undergraduate student body president at UNLV.

That’s the crux of the issue. A formula is used to figure out how much to fund the state’s eight public higher education institutions. Except in dire budget-cutting years, that number determines how much each institution gets from the state.

Say, for example, the formula says UNLV should get $100. If the university collects $25 in student tuition and fees, the state gives the university the remaining $75.

In essence, the university loses state support for every dollar in tuition and fees it collects.

That problem has been coupled with a long-standing philosophy that Nevada’s higher education institutions should be cheaper than their counterparts in other states.

Crystal Abba, associate vice chancellor for academic and student affairs, said tuition and fees have long been tied to regional averages. Increases were typically linked to inflation.

But the policy was recently suspended so higher education officials could look into rewriting it, with a goal of making increases more predictable.

Klaich said he expects a tuition increase to come before the higher education system’s governing Board of Regents in December.

Saenz, the UNLV student president, said she thinks students would go for a small increase, perhaps 5 percent, but only if it were guaranteed to stay on campus, in the form of more scholarships, perhaps.

The funding formula is also being studied and could be rewritten. There is widespread agreement among higher education officials that the College of Southern Nevada, the largest higher education institution in the state, is under­funded when compared to its peers.

Klaich and others said rewriting the formula could help solve the issue of tuition and fees not being kept on campuses.

He said the way things are done now discourages, rather than encourages, the universities to recruit out-of-state students. If every dollar they collect in tuition means they lose a dollar in state funding, why bother collecting it?

"That doesn’t encourage looking at the optimum mix of residential and non­residential students," Klaich said. "It doesn’t incentivize presidents at all."

And right now, as the state budget has been shrinking, state leaders are en­couraging the higher education system to be more self-sufficient.

Klaich said UNLV’s argument "has some real merit," and should be part of the discussion when the funding formula is rewritten.

He intends to push for a bill in the next legislative session that allows the campuses to keep all of their out-of-state tuition without being penalized.

Contact reporter Richard Lake at or 702-383-0307.

News Videos
Stardust implosion anniversary
Twelve years ago today, the Stardust Resort and Casino was imploded. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Lawsuits filed against security contractors at Nevada National Security Site
Two lawsuits were filed today against the current and former government security contractors for the Nevada National Security Site, one on behalf of Jennifer Glover who alleges sexual discrimination and assault and the other on behalf of Gus Redding who alleges retaliation after he gave statements supporting Glover’s claims. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New housing option helps Las Vegas moms keep kids while kicking drugs
WestCare Nevada Women and Children’s Campus in Las Vegas has added a new transitional housing wing for women who have completed the inpatient treatment at the behavioral health nonprofit to help them as they go through outpatient treatment, shore up their finances and prepare to secure long-term housing. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Teenager in critical condition after being struck by an SUV in Henderson
Authorities were called about 2:45 p.m. to the scene in the 2100 block of Olympic Avenue, near Green Valley Parkway and Sunset Road. The teenager was taken to University Medical Center in critical condition. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Water Question Part 3: Conservation loves a crisis
Future growth in the Las Vegas Valley will rest almost entirely on the community’s ability to conserve its finite share of the Colorado River.
The Water Question Part 7: How much can we grow?
Many experts agree that Southern Nevada can continue to grow, so long as residents are willing to do what needs to be done to stretch our crucial resource as far as it will go.
The Water Question Part 6: How many people can Southern Nevada’s water sustain?
The number can swing wildly depending on a host of variables, including the community’s rates of growth, conservation efforts and the severity of drought on the Colorado River.
Mylar Balloon Demo
NV Energy presented a demonstration Wednesday to depict the damage that can be caused by the release of Mylar balloons.
Educators dressed in red have taken to the streets to demand more for their students.
Educators dressed in red have taken to the streets to demand more for their students. Educators from around the State are bringing the Red for Ed movement to the steps of the Nevada Legislature in Carson City, NV, and to the Grant Sawyer Building in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Nature Conservancy Ranch
The Nature Conservancy just bought the 900-acre 7J Ranch at the headwaters of the Amargosa River, north of Beatty. The property could become a research station, though ranching will continue.
Swift water rescue at Durango Wash in Las Vegas
On Thursday, February 14, 2019, at approximately 8:42 a.m., the Clark County Fire Department responded to a report of a swift water incident where people were trapped in the Durango wash which is located near 8771 Halcon Ave. Personnel found one person who was trapped in the flood channel. The individual was transported to the hospital in stable condition. Video by Clark County Fire & Rescue.
Flooding at E Cheyenne in N. Las Vegas Blvd.
Quick Weather Around the Strip
Rain hits Las Vegas, but that doesn't stop people from heading out to the Strip. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Aaron Semas, professional bull rider, talks about his traumatic brain injuries
Aaron Semas, professional bull rider, talks about his traumatic brain injuries. The Cleveland Clinic will begin researching the brains of retired bull riders to understand the impact traumatic brain injuries have on cognition. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Matt Stutzman shoots arrows with his feet
Matt Stutzman who was born without arms shoots arrows with his feet and hits the bullseye with remarkable accuracy. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Secretary of Air Force Emphasizes the Importance of Nellis AFB
US Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson visited Nellis Air Force Base during Red Flag training and described how important the base is to the military.
Former Northwest Academy student speaks out
Tanner Reynolds, 13, with his mother Angela McDonald, speaks out on his experience as a former student of Northwest Academy in Amargosa Valley, which includes abuse by staff member Caleb Michael Hill. Hill, 29, was arrested Jan. 29 by the Nye County Sheriff’s Office on suspicion of child abuse.
Former Northwest Academy students speak out
Tristan Groom, 15, and his brother Jade Gaastra, 23, speak out on their experiences as former students of Northwest Academy in Amargosa Valley, which includes abuse by staff and excessive medication.
Disruption At Metro PD OIS Presser
A man claiming to be part of the press refused to leave a press conference at Metro police headquarters, Wednesday January 30, 2019. Officers were forced to physically remove the man. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Clients at Las Vegas’ Homeless Courtyard talk about their experience
Clients at Las Vegas’ Homeless Courtyard talk about their experience after the city began operating around the clock. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Las Vegas parts ways with operator of homeless courtyard
Jocelyn Bluitt-Fisher discusses the transition between operators of the homeless courtyard in Las Vegas, Thursday Jan. 24, 2019.(Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas police and Raiders partner with SafeNest
Las Vegas police and the Raiders partner with SafeNest on Project Safe 417 (the police code for domestic violence is 417). The program partners trained SafeNest volunteer advocates with Metropolitan Police Department officers dispatched to domestic violence calls, allowing advocates to provide immediate crisis advocacy to victims at the scene of those calls. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
North Las Vegas police chief discusses officer-involved shooting
North Las Vegas police chief Pamela Ojeda held a press conference Thursday, Jan. 24, regarding an officer-involved shooting that took place on Jan. 21. The incident resulted in the killing of suspect Horacio Ruiz-Rodriguez. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Volunteers gather for annual Clark County homeless count
Volunteers gather for the annual Southern Nevada Homeless Census, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Who can understand hospital price lists?
Lists of costs for procedures, drugs and devices are now posted the websites of hospitals to comply with a new federal rule designed to provide additional consumer transparency. Good luck figuring out what they mean.
People in Mesquite deal with a massive power outage
People in Mesquite respond to a major power outage in the area on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Group helping stranded motorists during power outage
A group of Good Samaritans are offering free gas to people in need at the Glendale AM/PM, during a massive power outage near Mesquite on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen falls at Las Vegas parade
U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen of Nevada fell and injured her wrist at the Martin Luther King Day parade in Las Vegas on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (Nathan Asselin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Local astronomers host super blood wolf moon viewing
The Las Vegas Astronomical Society paired with the College of Southern Nevada to host a lunar eclipse viewing Sunday night. Known as the super blood wolf moon, the astronomical event won't occur for another 18 years. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae
Tate Elementary shows academic progress after categorical funding
Students at Tate Elementary in Las Vegas has benefited from a program to boost education funding in targeted student populations, known as categorical funding. One program called Zoom helps students who have fallen below grade level in reading. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Home Front Page Footer Listing