Posts Tagged ‘UNLV’

Nevada Selected For Policy Academy To Improve Higher Education Performance Measures

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 5:00 pm October 17th, 2011

CARSON CITY – The National Governors Association (NGA) announced today  that Nevada has been selected as one of six states to participate in a Policy Academy on strengthening post-secondary education performance measures.

The NGA defines a Policy Academy as a highly interactive, team-based process for helping a select number of states develop and implement an action plan to address a complex public policy issue.

In announcing the project, the NGA said: “States must have a strategy for getting more career-ready graduates for the dollars they have, and the NGA Policy Academy will focus on helping states build that strategy.”

Photo courtesy of UNLV.

“Having good performance metrics is important, but it is not enough,” said Dane Linn, director of the NGA Center for Best Practice’s Education Division. “Governors and other policymakers must be equipped to use performance measures, whether in developing budgets, approving or evaluating programs or deciding how or whether to regulate administrative and academic services. This Policy Academy will help states focus on those measures.”

Gov. Brian Sandoval said: “Nevada is diligently working to improve accountability systems and measures throughout the K-12 system and this Policy Academy will enable us to expand that work through the higher education realm.”.

The work will complement the Legislature’s interim funding study, he said.

“As always, higher education’s goals have been focused on continuous improvement in how we educate our students and how we help Nevada’s economy prosper,” said Dan Klaich, chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education. “I’m excited we were selected for the Complete to Compete Initiative and I am looking forward to working with the governor and representatives of the Legislature to define accountability metrics that will support our ongoing initiatives related to student success and effectiveness and efficiency.”

NSHE Chancellor Dan Klaich.

The NGA Policy Academy is aimed at improving post-secondary education accountability systems and consists of two workshops, technical assistance from NGA Center staff, and grants of up to $30,000 per state for additional expertise.

The academy is designed to help states strengthen their post-secondary education systems by focusing on efficiency and effectiveness metrics in their accountability systems and incorporating those metrics into their decision making processes.

The NGA Center will help selected states in their efforts to review and revamp their existing state post-secondary accountability system. States will also work with the NGA Center to identify ways to use efficiency and effectiveness metrics as part of the state’s higher education policy agenda.

Funding for the academy is provided by the Lumina Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Nevada’s governor-appointed state team consists of: Heidi Gansert, chief of staff to Sandoval; Julia Teska, a budget analyst from the Department of Administration; Denice Miller, vice president of government relations, MGM Resorts International; Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas; Klaich; and Neal Smatresk, president of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Titus Retires from UNLV, Ready to Run for…Something

By Elizabeth Crum | 5:27 pm June 24th, 2011

In case you missed it yesterday, the Las Vegas Sun reported that former U.S. Rep. Dina Titus has accepted a sweet buyout from UNLV, a move signaling she is ready for a return to politics.

Former Rep. Dina Titus

Titus will get a $162,000 lump sum for giving up her political science professor’s job. She will will still teach part-time and is scheduled to teach a nuclear politics course at UNLV this fall (for which she’ll be paid $3,000).

Titus told the Las Vegas Sun she’ll be working on a book she’s writing, exploring the horizon as a political consultant and…planning her next campaign:

“I’m certainly looking into it,” Titus said when asked about a future bid. “We’re watching the numbers and redistricting. I’ll probably make a decision in the fall.”

And in case there was any doubt, Titus told CityLife she will run for…something.




Higher Education Budget Could Be Cut Further Under Legislative Proposal

By Andrew Doughman | 3:40 pm May 18th, 2011

CARSON CITY – The budget situation for Nevada’s universities and colleges may have worsened today as legislators voted to both cut and restore funding for higher education.

Democratic legislators first voted to restore $100 million to the higher education budget, but Democrats also continued to oppose a shift of Washoe and Clark County property tax money from county governments to the University of Nevada, Reno and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

That property tax shift represents $120 million that the universities were counting on in the governor’s recommended general fund budget.

Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, said legislators fully intend to replace that money with general fund dollars.

But Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, was not so sure.

“That decision has not been finalized,” he said.

Horsford said backfilling that $120 million hole is “one of the options” the Legislature may consider.

If the Legislature does nothing, Nevada’s higher education world may be worse off than it was under Gov. Brian Sandoval’s recommended general fund budget.

“If they don’t replace the property tax money they took out, we’re in very bad shape,” said Jim Richardson, a lobbyist for the Nevada Faculty Alliance.

Richardson said he had thought the Legislature would either apply the property tax shift to all 17 counties or use general fund dollars instead.

Legislature Votes To Reduce Tuition Increase By 13 Percent

Students, however, might feel a little better after legislators on two money committees voted today to support a 13 percent tuition increase spread over the next two years rather than a 26 percent increase, as was proposed earlier.

That would mean the universities would have to find more money because many colleges and universities assumed a 26 percent increase.

“That money has to be cut from somewhere and it would appear that means program cuts and layoffs,” said professor Gregory Brown of the UNLV Faculty Alliance.

The 13 percent tuition increase would bring Nevada’s colleges and universities about $42.4 million during the next two years.

The problem is, higher education administrators were counting on the $120 million worth of property tax diversions in addition to revenues collected through tuition.

The votes, however, all hinge on the Legislature passing new taxes or extending current ones, which are scheduled to sunset June 30. If that does not happen, legislators would have to re-examine these actions.

“We closed the budget, but the funding has not been identified so you can’t get too excited yet,” Smith said. “All you can count on is what we did today, and that’s contingent on us finding the revenue …It’s a budget in motion.”

Sandoval has recommended a two-year, higher-education budget that was $254 million less than the amount of money the Legislature approved during the 2010 special session.

That would be reduced to a $112 million cut if the Board of Regents approves the tuition increases and the Legislature finds $100 million to give to colleges and universities. The Legislature would also have to find $120 million to replace the funding that would have gone to higher education through the local property tax diversion.

Before today, legislators had anticipated following Klaich’s four-point plan, which would have called for $80 million in new revenue and a 26 percent tuition increase.

Students had testified before a legislative committee about keeping tuition low before legislators voted to recommend a 13 percent increase to the Board of Regents, which makes the final call on student fees.

Republicans largely objected to the $100 million in new revenue.

“I don’t know where we’re going to get the money to pay for this,” said Assemblyman Randy Kirner, R-Reno. “I just think we don’t have the money. At this point in the game, this is kind of where I have to stand.”

At this point in the legislative game, legislators are debating taxes.  Sandoval included spending $6.1 billion in his 2011-2013 general fund budget. Democrats want to spend about $7 billion, with $626 million coming from extending taxes set to expire June 30 and the rest from new taxes on business and services like haircuts, attorneys and brothels.

“Bottom line is: there are taxes being paid that if continued would cover this [$100 million],” said Horsford.

Legislative committees also earlier supported a 4.8 percent salary cut to university employees, adding between $7.5 and $10 million in extra spending because the governor recommended a 5 percent cut.

“The reality is, the work is not done because we still need to get folks to pay for it,” Horsford said.

Record-Breaking Numbers Of Students Rally Against Budget Cuts At Legislature

By Andrew Doughman | 5:08 pm March 21st, 2011

CARSON CITY – The Capitol had a new vibe this morning: less gray hair, more noise.

In what some say was the largest student protest ever held at the Legislature, more than 1,000 students thronged the cold, snow-swept capitol grounds to protest Gov. Brian Sandoval’s $162 million proposed cuts to higher education.

So what motivates record-breaking numbers of students representing all of Nevada’s universities and community colleges to swarm the state house?

Students repeatedly said they are “fed up” with budget cuts.

They are angry enough that 800 of them rode in a 15-bus, overnight convoy from Las Vegas to Carson City to tell legislators and the governor how upset they are. Hundreds of others bused in from across the state.

Hundreds of college and university students swarmed the Legislature in Carson City, Nev., on Monday, March 21, 2011, during a rally protesting proposed budget cuts to higher education. Photo by Cathleen Allison

Here is what is troubling them: Universities could raise tuition 10 – 15 percent, lay off staff and faculty, eliminate programs and reduce course offerings to absorb Sandoval’s cuts.

News like that brought so many people to the people’s house that one student organizer called the scene “controlled chaos.”

At the Legislature, students packed the Assembly and Senate chambers, chanted “hey, hey, ho, ho, budget cuts have got to go” in the foyer, swarmed up and down stairs and crowded the hallways.

They thronged inside the Capitol building to demand an audience with the governor only to discover the governor was in a meeting. Later that afternoon, Sandoval shook hands and met with students.

One journalist Tweeted that a lobbyist grumbled about “disruptive” students. But students wanted to be heard.

“We’re almost being kicked when we’re down,” said Belen Figueroa, a University of Nevada, Reno freshman. “It hurts. When you’re kicked enough, you’re going to fight back, and this is people fighting back.”

Amelia Walsh, a 21-year-old junior at UNR, sat next to her 18-year-old friend Connie Anderson on a charter bus bound for Carson City. The two said they feared their institution was heading down the tubes.

“I was born here and my family is here, but if there’s nothing going for Nevada, why would I stay?” Walsh asked.

Anderson said she has watched Nevada’s leaders chop away at the budget since she was 13-years-old. As she progressed through high school, UNR became more expensive while offering fewer programs and services.

With that history and with Sandoval’s proposed cuts framing the debate, she did not hold out much hope.

“Even though this is the proposed plan, it’s basically the plan,” she said.

Walsh had a similar outlook. She said Nevada’s leaders do “whatever they want.”

“We’ve had rallies before,” she said. “We’ve had buses go down before. It’s important to show that we do care but I don’t know how much good it will do, unfortunately.”

Still, it was important enough for Walsh to board a Carson-bound bus on the first Monday after Spring break. This in an era of supposed youth apathy and ambivalence toward government.

Has something changed?

“This year the fear has been more tangible than I’ve ever seen it,” said Sebring Frehner, president of Nevada State College’s student government. “This year I’ve actually seen school officials trying to control their shaking when they’re being told about these cuts.”

Many more students seem to be realizing the budget cuts affect them personally.

Walsh said that she’s under financial strain. She receives the Millennium Scholarship and her parents chip in, but she also spent Spring break working at Home Depot, where she works between 32 and 40 hours per week.

Students told stories like Walsh’s to legislators during a morning committee hearing. But Figueroa, who was sitting in the audience, was not impressed. She said she was even a little bit offended when two legislators seemed to be swapping jokes during student testimony.

“I don’t think disappointed is the right word, but I feel hesitant of the success of the rally,” she said. “…It really wasn’t getting through to them.”

That does not mean students are down and out.

“This single day will absolutely not bring about change,” Freshner said. “However, this isn’t the end of what we’re doing. This is the beginning.”



Thousands Expected Today For Huge Rally For Revenue At Legislature

By Andrew Doughman | 12:01 am March 21st, 2011

CARSON CITY – In what could be the largest rally ever held at the Legislature, more than 1,000 students, parents, teachers and activists are expected today to protest education budget cuts.

Hundreds from Las Vegas have hopped aboard a convoy of buses to join their northern counterparts in making a call for more revenue – read: tax increases – to bridge Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposed $160 million cuts to the higher education budget.

Organizers say they hope their rally will spark a shift in the debate at the Legislature, where lawmakers have yet to advance any public plans for new revenue.

“I hope these politicians will change their tone,” said Michael Flores, an organizer for Progress Now Nevada. “In Carson, there’s a different atmosphere. They beat around the bush a lot …people feel that, you know what, we have got to get on the ball with this.”

Casey Stiteler, who coordinates the UNR student body’s governmental affairs said the key message is mitigating both cuts and tuition increases.

“We understand very much that a number of important, vital services are being cut as well, but we want to make sure our concerns are being taken in account as these decisions are being made,” Stiteler said.

University presidents have already drafted tentative plans for tuition increases between 10 and 15 percent. They may use a combination of tuition increases, faculty and staff pay cuts, program cuts and reduced course offerings to balance their budgets.

Students have said before that this plan is unacceptable. If their numbers alone do not send that message, then at the very least the UNR pep band playing outside the Legislature should grab some ears.

And it is not just students from universities who are showing up.

Leo Murrieta of the Nevada Youth Coalition has recruited about 150 high school students. He has talked to hundreds of parents and obtained excused absences from school so that students can get a real-life civics lesson.

“The overall response was this is more important, this is something my kid should partake in,” said Murrieta, who has spent most of his recent evenings organizing the trip.

Rally Has Been Months In The Making

Sara Sinnett, a 19-year-old UNR student, texts students Sunday afternoon to remind them about the March 21 rally at the Legislature, which is expected to draw thousands.

All of these groups – K-12, higher education and progressive organizations – have not exactly had problems recruiting for the rally.

People are fed up.

Previous legislative town hall events have been packed with Nevadans upset about the governor’s proposed cuts.

So how, exactly, does that anger translate into action?

Student and community leaders have been planning the rally since January. They have made phone calls, spoke in classrooms and held events to spread the word. They even allotted student fees to rent buses; UNLV used $15,000 to rent buses for the overnight haul from Las Vegas to Carson City, an expense the UNLV College Republicans have called unnecessary and “wasteful.”

Sara Sinnett, a 19-year-old psychology major at the University of Nevada, Reno, spent hours Sunday afternoon sending reminders to students to get on the Carson City-bound buses come Monday morning.

While she has spent countless hours phone banking and speaking in front of her classes about the March 21 event, she said the old shoe-and-leather approach has not been the most effective.

“The best way we’ve found out to do this is Facebook,” she said. “We’ve also done things like text message campaigns.”

In Las Vegas, Flores has prepped for the rally for weeks. Much of his work has been through text messages and Facebook.

“A lot of people don’t pick up the newspaper anymore, so you put that [news story] on Facebook and that’s how people get fired up about this,” he said.

Whatever the medium, the message got out. But it did not happen overnight.

How much time does it take to coordinate hundreds of people statewide?

“Well, I don’t sleep anymore,” Flores said.








Senate Hears Bill That Would Allow Guns On College Campuses

By Andrew Doughman | 12:13 pm March 18th, 2011

CARSON CITY – When the Amanda Collins testified before a Senate committee, she recounted an emotional story of her brutal assault at University of Nevada, Reno campus.

Collins said she was defenseless when serial rapist and convicted murderer James Biela attacked her in a UNR parking garage.

She was testifying in support of a bill from Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, that would allow people with concealed carry permits to bring their firearms onto Nevada’s college and university campuses.

Collins had a permit to carry a concealed firearm, but had left it at home knowing that it was illegal to carry her weapon onto campus.

“The unanswered question of my life is and will remain to be, ‘what would have changed if I was carrying my weapon that night?’” she said.

Earlier this summer it took a Nevada jury just six hours to convict Biela of the rape and murder of Brianna Denison. Biela was also found guilty of three other felony charges, including the rape of a Collins in October 2007 and the rape and kidnapping of another woman a few months later.

In her testimony this morning, Collins raised a question that guided the several hours of testimony that followed: “what if?”

Gun advocates, firearms safety businesses and students said people must pass rigorous requirements to obtain a permit to carry a concealed weapon; they know the law and would not misuse their firearms. If firearms are allowed on campus, people on campus would be more safe, they said.

“It’s important to know that law-abiding citizens are just that: law abiding,” Lee said.

Furthermore, the senator said, the current ban creates an “arbitrary line” between on-campus and off-campus that oftentimes is no more different than one side of the street from the other.

Assemblyman Scott Hammond, R-Las Vegas, teaches night classes at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He said that his students sometimes do not feel safe leaving his class.

“They are very cognizant of the fact that there are places around the campus that are not the safest,” he said.

Hammond said would feel safer if trained permit carriers were in his classes.

Hours of testimony from individuals provided the committee with a series of situations. If “bad guys” were to attempt violent acts on campuses, the ability to carry a firearm on campuses would allow people to protect themselves.

“To single out college students and staff and leave them more vulnerable than the rest of the population just seems unfair,” said Scott Durward, a firearms trainer for Blackbird Tactical Training in Reno.

Adam Garcia, police chief at UNR, said that campuses are safer than the surrounding community. But in regards to Collins, who was still in the room when Garcia testified, he said “we failed miserably.”

Garcia and other representatives from police departments throughout Nevada opposed the bill, saying it would make campuses less safe if guns were to be allowed. He said raucous sporting events involving alcohol and firearms could pose a security threat.

“These events could become killing fields,” Garcia said.

Frank Adams, representing the Nevada Sheriffs and Chiefs Association, said that the bill poses “grave concerns.” If guns were to be allowed on campuses, he asked the committee what procedures police would follow in terms of storing guns in dormitories and managing guns at sports events.

He also said that Nevada’s Board of Regents generally govern their own affairs. This bill would be unusual because it instructed the board to act a certain way.

“Many private businesses elect to restrict any weapons, concealed or not,” Adams said.

Jim Richardson of the Nevada Faculty Alliance said that the bill would mandate that universities allow people with permits to carry their guns on campus while not changing laws governing allowing firearms in the Legislature, airports and the other government buildings.

After three hours of testimony, Lee held the bill for further discussion.









Proposal Would Ban Smoking On All Nevada College And University Campuses

By Andrew Doughman | 9:47 am February 25th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Students who smoke may soon find it more difficult to do so. A proposal heard today would ban smoking on all Nevada’s university and college campuses.

The Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act of 2006 already outlaws smoking inside of buildings, but this has not rid campuses of tobacco smoke, said Assemblyman Paul Aizley, D-Las Vegas, the bill’s sponsor and a former professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

“My goal in introducing this bill is to make it possible for students to walk on campus and not be exposed to secondhand smoke,” he said. “There are entrances to buildings where smokers cluster because they’re outside, and you have to walk through the smoke to get inside.”

The bill received support from various medical associations whose representatives testified that exposure to secondhand smoke is both harmful and easily preventible. Christopher Roller of the Nevada Tobacco Prevention Coalition said 466 campuses in the United States already have a complete tobacco ban.

The Nevada Faculty Alliance also supported Aizley’s bill.

At the hearing, Aizley also submitted an amendment to his bill that would establish smoking on campus as a misdemeanor for which someone could receive a citation.

Although no one testified against the bill at the Assembly’s judiciary committee meeting, the chairman, William Horne, D-Las Vegas, had several concerns.

Horne, a UNLV graduate himself, imagined smokers fleeing the campus for a cigarette break.

“Where in that immediate vicinity would they be able to do that?” he asked.

Showing his familiarity with the local geography, he rattled off a list of businesses adjacent to the UNLV campus, many of which also don’t allow smoking on their premises.

“So, the parking lot in front of Chipotle?” Horne said. “So I can eat my burrito bowl and pass through a cloud of smoke?”

He seemed to be saying that an enforced ban would create a smoke-free environment for students and faculty, but would likely expose those in the immediate vicinity to more secondhand smoke.

Assemblywoman Marilyn Dondero Loop, D-Las Vegas, asked whether or not smoking would be allowed in parking lots.

The bill language states that smoking would be banned “on any property or campus owned or occupied by any component of the Nevada System of Higher Education and used for any purpose related to the System,” which would seem to include university parking lots.

The committee did not vote on the bill.

“I’d like to see if we can come to some kind of compromise,” Horne said to Aizley at the conclusion of the hearing. “They [Smokers] should have at least some place that they could go that’s convenient to do it.”

“My intention is to have the ability to walk through the campus smoke free,” Aizley responded.

Aizley said he would examine possibilities for creating smoking zones that would still allow people to walk through campus without breathing secondhand smoke.

Higher Education Presidents and Regents Criticize Budget Cuts

By Andrew Doughman | 6:53 pm February 3rd, 2011

LAS VEGAS – The presidents of Nevada’s colleges and universities said the governor’s budget cuts would put their institutions on a starvation diet.

They argued that past budget cuts severely slimmed their institutions, meaning additional funding reductions would threaten their core academic mission.

The Board of Regents, which governs the Nevada System of Higher Education, met in Las Vegas with the presidents today to discuss Gov. Brian Sandoval’s budget. That budget cuts higher education by 17.7 percent or $162 million.

The presidents said again and again that they will have to charge students more in tuition and fees, eliminate degree programs, curtail course offerings, restrict access and fire professors and staff.

Neal Smatresk, president of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said that he sees two paths forward given the magnitude of the cuts:

“Ask yourself: Does UNLV or UNR [University of Nevada, Reno] become a degree mill and dramatically reduce quality or do we become very small, very expensive and very restrictive?”

The question of access, however, is more severe at community colleges. Access is supposed to be one of the primary reasons community colleges exist.

Michael Richards, president of the College of Southern Nevada, repeated to the regents a story he also told to the Legislature: this past fall, CSN had to turn away more than 5,000 students because they didn’t have room for them.

He said that the college would continue restricting access.

“You would see a major change in the complexion of CSN with these staggering cuts,” he said.

Presidents also said that they’re losing key faculty, especially at research institutions like UNR, UNLV and the Desert Research Institute. Those faculty members are lured away by more competitive offers.

“The faculty are leaving because they’re worried about the future,” said Stephen Wells, president of the Desert Research Institute.

He said that when the state is “chopping off the limbs” of the budget, his top professors become increasingly antsy about their job security.

Those are the people, he said, who the state pays $75,000 in salary and, in return, bring in tens of millions of dollars to the state in research grants.

The presidents repeatedly said that the governor’s 5 percent salary cut and assumed tuition increases of about 10 to 12 percent annually would still leave their institutions with gaping budget holes.

Putting forth solutions, Regents hopped between calling for more revenue to mitigate the cuts and admonishing the presidents to find further efficiencies.

It’s a dance they’ll have to master as they try to sell higher education to the Legislature during the upcoming session. Politically, legislators may be unwilling to levy a new tax to support higher education if the institutions cannot take demonstrable steps to stretch every dollar they have.

Although the presidents and regents collectively had little praise for the governor, they said they appreciate Sandoval’s plan to let the universities retain more of their tuition dollars as well as allow them to shift funds around their institutions.

Along with the governor’s proposed 5 percent salary reductions, Sandoval has supported differentiated tuition. In short, that means some students would pay more for certain degree programs. It means paying more for an engineering degree than an English degree since an engineer is likely to make more money in the future.

The regents also asked Chancellor Dan Klaich, who oversees the state’s college and universities, to coordinate tactical program closures. That way UNR and UNLV would not offer duplicate degree programs.

One source of revenue that won’t be available is the federal stimulus dollars that had helped buoy the higher education budget. The money is almost gone, and there’s no round two.

Tax increases are also off the table, for now. Sandoval has vowed to veto any bill with a tax increase, and legislators have thus far offered no tax plans.

The Legislature convenes Feb. 7 for their 120-day session.