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Tuition increase in Nevada under consideration

Tuition might go up next year at the state’s colleges and universities.

That’s one option higher education leaders are considering as they confront expected budget shortfalls. No amount for the possible tuition increase has been set.

Chancellor Jim Rogers said Monday that other options include seeking additional funding for community colleges from local governments, selling off the state’s tobacco settlement for a lump sum and eliminating some tax breaks for large companies.

Rogers and Michael Wixom, chairman of the university system Board of Regents, floated the ideas Monday in a meeting with Gov. Jim Gibbons. Rogers and Gibbons have publicly feuded over the cuts the governor has proposed across state government.

Rogers called the 45-minute meeting — the first between the two men since the budget crisis hit hard — “very productive.”

The governor, seeing a major downturn in state revenues now and in the future, has asked virtually all state agencies to make significant budget cuts. Declining tax revenues are forcing the state to cut spending by an additional $300 million for the fiscal year ending June 30 and by $1.5billion in the 2009-11 two-year budget. The university system includes eight institutions with an annual budget of more than $800 million.

Adam Cronis, University of Nevada, Las Vegas’ student body president, said students have been so focused on the impact budget cuts could have that they have not focused on a possible tuition increase, a subject that has been rumored for months.

“It’s certainly something we’re starting to open our eyes to more and more,” he said.

He said that while he wouldn’t want to support any increase, he could live with one that was relatively small and went straight to the universities, rather than ending up in the state’s general fund, which is where an increase would go under existing rules.

“If the revenue is coming from the students, it makes sense for that university or college to be able to keep the money,” he said.

Rogers agreed and said he pitched that idea to Gibbons. The governor was supportive.

Rogers said appointments for upcoming vacancies on the board did not come up in his meeting with the governor.

Regent Steve Sisolak’s seat will be open soon because he won a seat on the Clark County Commission in last week’s election. Regent Thalia Dondero has to give up her seat because of term limits. The governor will have to appoint someone to both posts.

Rogers said he would be opposed to either Bret Whipple or Bob Beers being appointed to Sisolak’s seat.

Whipple just lost his bid to get re-elected as a regent.

“I think it’s a really bad idea,” Rogers said of the possibility of a Whipple appointment. “It tells the voting public they can go to hell.”

Robert Blakely, who defeated Whipple in the election, said he would support Whipple being reappointed to the board.

Whipple, an attorney with his own practice, said he was unsure whether he wanted the seat because he would have to move to Sisolak’s district to be eligible. He has two children and likes his home.

“It would be up to my wife,” said Whipple, who did not dismiss the idea.

Beers is openly seeking the seat. He lost his bid last week to be re-elected to the state Senate.

As a UNLV graduate, Beers said he felt “indebted” to the university system. He already lives in Sisolak’s district.

“I’d like to get on there and help find administrative costs we could save,” he said. “Get the money back in the classroom where it belongs.”

Rogers, who often clashes with the brand of fiscal conservatism espoused by Beers, opposes the idea of a Beers appointment.

“I think Bob Beers is a menace,” Rogers said.

Rogers floated two names as possible replacements for Sisolak. Both have expressed interest, he said.

Those are Dr. Mark Doubrava, an ophthalmologist, and Diane Dickerson, granddaughter of Denver Dickerson, who served as Nevada’s acting governor from 1908-1911.

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

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