Proposed higher education plan presents conflict
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The Committee to Study the Funding of Higher Education’s Funding Formula held a meeting Wednesday, with varied opinions over how the proposed funding formula should allocate money to Nevada institutions greatly divided.
Approved by the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) Board of Regents Aug. 24, the funding formula proposal will greatly shift the way colleges and universities are funded if passed by the state Legislature for the 2012-13 biennium.
Though many are in favor of the plan, others are not as excited.
UNLV president Neal Smatresk said the committee has “begun to sort through some complicated issues.” He said the proposal could lead Nevada to a more equitable model.
But for the institutions who would see a decrease in funding, the implementation is not as highly sought after.
John Carpenter, a spokesperson for Team GBC, an organization that seeks to keep education affordable in Nevada, said the proposal is weighted against rural institutions.
“The funding proposal passed by the Board of Regents is grossly unfair,” Carpenter said.
If the proposal were to pass the Legislature during its next session, Great Basin College would see a $4.5 million shortfall, which could possibly translate into program and faculty reductions. This is in addition to the college having eliminated classes because of cuts in the previous biennium, affecting the time frame in which students are able to graduate.
Carpenter said the formula is “not equitable and is difficult.”
He said the current funding structure should remain in place.
“Don’t pit Nevadans against each other,” he said.
Under the current formula, the institution receiving the highest Full Time Enrollment funds is GBC.
The College of Southern Nevada currently receives the least amount of funding per FTE student.
The University of Nevada Reno and UNLV would receive the most funding per FTE student with $6,491 and $6,614, respectively, if the formula is adopted. Further, CSN would receive $4,183 while GBC would get $5,184.
Truckee Meadows Community College would be allotted $4,427, Western Nevada College $4,404, and Nevada State College $6,184, under the proposed funding formula.
Nevada Assemblyman Pete Goicoechea agreed with Carpenter’s sentiment. He said he doesn’t know how higher education leaders and legislators could consider a funding formula that sets one region against another.
“The funding formula will destroy community colleges,” he said.
Goicoechea said students would love to attend the state’s universities— UNR and UNLV— but that they are often unable to because they go where they can afford to do so.
“If [the rural colleges] close, students will be forced to relocate and attend universities, which creates competition,” Goicoechea said. “I can’t support any budget that has this funding formula in it. This is no way to start.”
Shannon Sumpter, chair of the UNLV Faculty Senate, said the proposed model is favorable, but is not without flaws.
“Perfection is rarely achieved on the first attempt,” Sumpter said.
Though CSN will continue to receive less funding than other state institutions, Charles Milne, the Faculty Senate chair at CSN, recognizes the proposed funding shift.
“In the end, it funds institutions equitably,” Milne said. Under the current formula, Milne said CSN is treated like an “unwanted stepchild.”
“This proposed funding formula is not perfect, but it is fair,” Milne said.
“No one wants competition from students,” said Richard McGee, fine arts department chair at CSN, “north [or] south.”
The Performance Pool portion of the proposal would see grades awarded on an ‘A’ through ‘F’ scale, with two structures for determining a failing grade. A student who attends a class more than 60 percent of the time will be counted differently than one who attended less than that percentage, which would be recorded as failure to complete.
With the proposal, institutions would see funding based on weighted, completed courses.
McGee said students still gain valuable academic experience.
“A failure is not necessarily a failure,” Mcgee said.
Karla Washington, a Hotel Administration senator in CSUN Student Government at UNLV, finds that students aren’t being considered as much as they should in Nevada.
“As always, the line [at UNLV Financial Aid and Scholarships] is down the hall,” she said. “We need help here [and] we need funding from the north to the south. Sometimes people don’t have [other] options.”