Hearing Outlines Cuts to Higher Education - 8 News NOW

Hearing Outlines Cuts to Higher Education

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LAS VEGAS -- The future of higher education in Nevada is taking center stage at the state legislature. The president of UNLV was among those who took part in a hearing to show how deep cuts would affect students and teachers in Las Vegas.

The joint hearing by the Assembly ways and Means and the Senate Finance Committee was teleconferenced for the public at the Grant Sawyer Building Tuesday morning.

But the deep cuts proposed at Nevada's colleges and universities are still not enough to balance the state's budget.

Representatives from all higher education institutions were present, including UNLV President Neal Smatresk. He laid out the proposed cuts while trying to keep a positive tone.

"We have no higher calling than students to graduate in a timely fashion in four years if they stay in school, get good advice, and continue to move through their curriculum," he said.

College students do not feel as optimistic. Hundreds held a protest Monday at the state capitol.

Governor Brian Sandoval has proposed cutting the budget for higher education by $162 million over the next two years. For UNLV, that would mean higher tuition, teacher layoffs, and up to 33 degree programs eliminated. The cuts directly affect 2,000 students at UNLV.

There was a level of frustration on Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford's voice as he realized that even with those cuts, it's still not enough to bridge the budget gap.

"I just don't understand why isn't there a plan that shows what all of the cuts would have to be under the governor's recommendation. Why is there a gap at all? Why are you guys holding back telling back telling us what the full impact would be of the Governor's recommended cuts?" he said.

University Chancellor Dan Klaich responded that because they don't know how deep the cuts will be, they are still trying to figure out what will be axed. Chancellor Klaich said he could get "a lot darker" when it comes to his proposals.

UNLV is not the only campus affected. Nevada State College also plans to cut deeply.

"We will implement a 25 percent cut in our operating budget through our zero-based budgeting approach. In other words, each department will have to come back and start from ground zero," said NSC President Lesley DiMare.

The College of Southern Nevada said they simply are not cutting programs, they are cutting access. The college says they will not accept as many students. Those that are accepted face a 26 percent tuition hike over two years. Eight of nine CSN learning centers across southern Nevada may be shut down.

One UNLV graduate student came to testify and said if his social works program is gone, it would hurt the whole community.

"I am really concerned," said student Mark Nichols. "There are working families -- these are folks whose mothers are going to hospice. It is the social workers who care for them and these social workers may not be there tomorrow."

At the hearing, President Smatresk said he will do what he can to keep the Masters of Social Work program going. But he will be balancing that with millions of dollars of other potential cuts at UNLV.

Senator Horsford ordered educators to come up with a even deeper budget cut plan by April 5.

If classes are cut at UNLV and NSC, UNLV President Smatresk says they can only afford one year to transition students out of majors facing elimination.

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