I-Team: Budget Cuts, Uncompetitive Salaries Hurting UNLV - 8 News NOW

Investigative Reporter Jonathan Humbert and Photojournalist Alex Brauer

I-Team: Budget Cuts, Uncompetitive Salaries Hurting UNLV

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LAS VEGAS - From a state in the red to a campus known for red, it's the one color everyone is seeing. Programs at UNLV are on the brink.

"In the last three or four years, our budget has been slashed about a third," said UNLV Associate Professor of Education Cecilia Maldonado. Maldonado fights for jobs and funds as chair of the Faculty Senate. "Most faculty have increased their workload by 20 percent without a pay increase," she said.

The 2009 Clark County Salary Tracker

University leaders say they are unable to budge. "It's not practical right now to offer outrageously large salaries," UNLV President Neal Smatresk said. Many employees took 4.6% pay cuts. Tenure helps, but more cuts are coming, perhaps 10 to 15%, according to Smatresk. "It's a real question how we're going to come out," Smatresk said.

That creates a snowball effect. Weaker salaries mean fewer quality teachers. That means a lower quality classroom. Students may leave, especially when they have to pay more in tuition. That all hurts retention. "We used to be able to keep maybe two out of three," Smatresk said. "Now, it looks like we're keeping maybe one out of three, and I'm a little worried about that number."

It hurts recruiting more. "We're the hardest hit institution in the nation," Maldonado said. "Who would consider coming here, when there are better options?" Smatresk says he had a top-flight candidate in the bag. When the applicant considered weak local schools, little legislative support and an uncertain campus, UNLV didn't stand a chance. "The risk of being here seemed to outweigh the reward of what we offered," Smatresk said.

The numbers bear that out. The I-Team compared UNLV with the University of Arizona because of proximity, similar professor-student ratios and campus size. The I-Team wanted to see who made what. UNLV had 27 professors and administrators who made over $200,000 a year. At the University of Arizona, there were 287 professors who surpassed that amount. Many of those came from the medical school, but even the president of the university made much more.

That's the fiscal reality for Smatresk and UNLV. "It's already not quite the same university. Remember, we just lot six departments," Smatresk said. One of those departments is partially run by Maldonado. Two jobs are already lost. It is unclear of what could happen next. "There's no guarantee," Maldonado said.

More Rebels are seeing red, when salaries only go so far.

Furlough days also continue to cause problems for many non-tenured staff like librarians. That can mean a reduction in available hours and access to facilities. It's the snowball effect so many are worried about. If the school lowers the quality of its programs and raises tuition at the same time, UNLV loses the reputation it once had.

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