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Student fees could fund Nevada State College expansion

Nevada State College needs more space.

The state has no money to construct a new building.

That’s a problem.

“We just don’t feel we can sit back and wait anymore,” said Buster Neel, NSC’s vice president for finance and administration.

So college officials came up with a novel plan to raise the estimated $61 million needed to build not one, but two new buildings.

They’re going to have the students pay a third of the cost.

The plan, which will go before the Board of Regents today , calls for a new $150-per-semester fee for students who take four or more credits.

Outside of student-focused buildings such as student unions, this has never been done before in Nevada.

The college, which opened in 2002 with 177 students, has been the fastest-growing higher education institution in the state.

Its enrollment topped 3,300 last fall. Officials say it cannot grow much more without more space.

The college has one building but leases space nearby and five miles away in downtown Henderson. The single building is a 42,000-square-foot liberal arts and science building on the school’s 509-acre campus.

The $23-million, state-of-the-art building opened in 2008. It was paid for almost entirely by the state.

But the chances of getting more money from the state right now, as the economy struggles to recover and tax revenues inch up slowly, are slim.

The plan before the board today details two new buildings.

One will be about 60,000 square feet and house the schools of nursing and education and faculty offices, classrooms, an auditorium and science labs.

A 40,000-square-foot building will house a student activities center – a quasi-student-union – and administrative offices and support services for students such as financial aid and admissions offices.

The buildings would be paid for through a combination of the student fees, money currently being used to lease the outlying space and future lease revenue.

Dan Klaich, the higher education system’s chancellor, said developing the state college is a crucial part of the entire system’s strategy.

“I believe it is so important that the Board of Regents is prepared to enact a student fee to fund an academic building, which we’ve never done in this system,” he said.

Neel, from the college, said the buildings were approved several years ago and were in line for state funding when the economy crashed.

College officials tried to come up with another way to pay for them. When the student fee idea was floated, they immediately went to the student government.

The student leaders approved the idea unanimously. A campus-wide survey of students showed 71 percent supported it, Neel said.

“It would be a huge step toward the development of the campus,” he said.

If the regents OK the plan – they have already endorsed the student fee portion – it would have to be approved by several other state agencies, including the state treasurer’s office and the State Board of Finance.

If all goes well, Neel said, the building could be completed by the start of the fall 2014 semester.

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

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