Vice chancellor: Gibbons’ budget would bring drastic tuition increases

It costs a little more than $4,600 a year to take a full load of classes at UNLV right now.

If the governor’s budget cuts are approved, the cost will jump to nearly $10,000, the university system’s vice chancellor told legislators Tuesday.

If not an enormous tuition increase, other options for coping with the cuts include:

— Laying off 2,000 workers.

— Closing the University of Nevada, Las Vegas or all of the community colleges and the state college.

— Eliminating university law, dental and medical schools, as well as the College of Southern Nevada.

Gov. Jim Gibbons has proposed cutting the state’s higher education budget by 36 percent, a cut of $473 million over the next two years.

Higher education officials told a legislative budget subcommittee Tuesday that the system could not sustain such cuts, a message that has become a mantra lately.

Legislators seemed receptive to the argument.

“I’m not going to participate in the dismantling of the higher education system in this state,” said Sen. Warren Hardy, R-Las Vegas. “We’re going to get through this. We’re going to fix this problem.”

Gibbons has said tuition increases could close the gap.

Dan Klaich, the system’s vice chancellor, outlined what such increases might mean.

He acknowledged that Nevada’s students pay less than those in nearby states and said a tuition increase is inevitable. But if tuition and fees were raised enough to make up the cuts, tuition here would be 70 percent higher than the average, he said.

That would drive students away, which would mean a loss of revenue, not a gain.

UNLV President David Ashley said cutting salaries and increasing the cost of benefits for professors — a Gibbons proposal — would drive some faculty away.

His comment led Rep. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, to quip that the state would be charging more for a product as the quality drops.

CSN President Michael Richards said his institution faces cuts while its enrollment is growing, partly because the lousy economy is driving people back to school.

Sen. Bob Coffin, D-Las Vegas, whose wife is a UNLV professor, said this is the worst budget situation he has seen since becoming a legislator in 1983.

He said legislators would do the “hard work” to save the system from massive cuts.

But he cautioned that higher education leaders will need to do their part. He warned against “mission creep,” meaning that it might not be wise to have a state college trying to expand, community colleges offering four-year degrees, and UNLV doing its best to become a respected research university. At least not right now.

 

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

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