To the editor:
We were shocked to turn to the Review-Journal editorial page on Jan. 6 and be told that the cuts in Nevada’s higher education system involved no pain. This seemed to be predicated on the observation that campuses did not close, instructors were not laid off and classes were not eliminated.
What you should have explained is why these disastrous consequences did not occur. As faculty members at the College of Southern Nevada, we can tell you that the reason was not because we cut fat and increased efficiency — we had already done that. The reason was that the faculty and the students together paid the price to avoid those consequences.
The pain will be experienced by faculty who will lose a portion of their salaries already approved by the Legislature for next year. More importantly, the pain will be experienced by the students, who at CSN are looking at a possible 13 percent increase in fees next year. Despite comments to the effect that current fees are low, it should be pointed out that the community college student fees are already more than twice those in California and higher than most neighboring states.
As a historically underfunded institution, CSN started the year in the hole with a budget $16 million to $20 million below full-funding levels and then experienced an unexpected 7 percent growth in enrollment. With budgets already more than 86 percent committed for this biennium, essentially no new positions and with little discretionary money, we had few good options. We could have chosen to limit or even close some of our high-cost, limited-entry programs, which produce nurses and other professionals this community needs so much. We could have chosen to shut the doors at our urban and rural outreach centers, and at 8 percent would have had to consider closure of a main campus.
We could have closed 50 percent of the classes taught by part-time instructors. Maybe, strategically we should have — and then the public would see the consequences of the cuts. Instead our students and faculty agreed to dig deeper into their pockets so that access to the important things — such as classes, tutoring, scholarships, computing labs, advising, online classes, training for jobs, workplace development and all the other things a community looks to us for in tough economic times — were not decimated.
These sacrifices must not be trivialized and the impacts they averted (short-range only) should be understood. The press needs to present a clear picture to the public. The budget crisis is real. Higher education is willing to bear an appropriate burden. However, all state agencies are trapped in a box in terms of the solutions available.
We are fighting a budget battle with one hand tied behind our backs, and the public needs to understand that access to all services is at risk. We ask our governor to put all options on the table and involve the elected officials and the analysts with the best experience to make the best decisions going forward. I fear we may not have seen the end of this, and the process by which decisions are being made and the public is being informed does not represent the one that we believe will bring this state out at the other end with the brightest possible economic future.
Pretending there are no serious and long-term consequences does no service to the citizens of this state — many of these cuts and any future cuts will cut to the bone that supports the structure of this state. A dollar not spent today can result in $10 to try to make up for it later.
THE WRITER IS A PROFESSOR AT THE COLLEGE OF SOUTHERN NEVADA. THE LETTER WAS SIGNED BY SEVEN OTHER PROFESSORS AT THE SCHOOL: ALAN BALBONI, FRED JACKSON, CANDACE KANT, ALOK PANDEY, ROYSE SMITH, MITZI WARE AND JOANNE VUILLEMOT.