Panels endorse revised Nevada higher education funding formula

CARSON CITY — Members of a joint legislative panel formally adopted a new funding formula Wednesday for Nevada’s universities and community colleges, a change that would shift more general fund support to campuses in Southern Nevada.

The action was one of several taken by a joint subcommittee of the Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means committees.

Under the new formula previously adopted by the Board Regents, funding would be based on how many class credits students complete. Additionally, upper-level courses would be given more weight in the funding balance because they cost more to offer.

University officials initially said the shift would mean about $13 million going to Southern Nevada schools from the north.

Legislative analysts are crunching final numbers on how individual campuses would be affected, though Chancellor Dan Klaich said he didn’t expect a big change. Final tallies are expected to be presented Saturday when the full committees meet to close the higher education budgets.

Committee members also agreed that grades of F will be counted for funding for the next two years while institutions adopt procedures to account for them. But going forward, institutions would receive no funding for students who receive an F because they didn’t attend class.

Gov. Brian Sandoval’s budget recommends roughly $750 million over the next two-year budget cycle for the state’s seven institutions that includes two universities.

Legislators on the higher education budget subcommittee also endorsed allowing institutions to retain out-of-state tuition and students fees generated on individual campuses. Previously those revenues were used to offset general fund support.

But they failed to reach agreement on a proposal that would require each campus to “carve out” 5 percent of their budget to be used as a performance incentive. Campuses would be able to tap those funds only if they met specific performance goals.

Assemblyman Randy Kirner, R-Reno, said forcing institutions to hold back money is more like punishment.

“If you really want to make it cool, you say if you do a good (job) you get more money,” he said.

Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, D-Las Vegas, agreed.

“Maybe it would make more sense if they were working toward something additional,” she said. “Incentives should be something extra … not something we withhold.”

The debate on that issue will continue Saturday.

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