Letter to the readers:

Exploring ways to fund higher education

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Sam Morris

Dan Klaich, Chancellor. Nevada System of Higher Education, greets UNLV President Neal Smastrek before the State of the University address Thursday, September 22, 2011.

Fri, Mar 30, 2012 (2:02 a.m.)

Dear Readers,

For years, there has been a debate over how higher education in Nevada is funded, and part of that discussion includes the complaint by southerners that UNLV gets short shrift.

Here’s how the system works: The colleges and universities collect fees and tuition and send them to Carson City to the state’s general fund. The state, which adds additional money, then uses a complex algorithm that few people understand to determine which institution gets what. That can lead to a disparity in funding.

For example, last year the Sun looked at the 2010 budget and found that UNR received $9,477 per student while UNLV was given $7,564 per student.

To measure it another way: UNLV received $1.24 for every dollar it sent to Carson City while UNR received $2.68. Great Basin College in Elko received $3.58 for every dollar it sent in. (And we haven’t yet delved into Nevada State College in Henderson and the College of Southern Nevada.)

With results like that, it’s no wonder that the state’s funding formula has been criticized, and it’s expected to change.

Last year, the Legislature passed a bill by Sen. John Lee, D-Las Vegas, that created a panel to study the funding formula and report back before next year’s session. The panel recently hired SRI International (formerly called the Stanford Research Institute) of Menlo Park, Calif., to do a full study.

Dan Klaich, the chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education, has also proposed a plan to fix the funding formula. His plan is expected to be reviewed by the legislative panel, as well.

This is an important issue because higher education can be a driver of the state’s economy, training a workforce and providing businesses with expertise. A report by the Brookings Institution last year outlining a plan to diversify the economy noted higher education’s important role and said Nevada had failed to properly fund it. It called for changes in the university system to better help the economy, and it called for the overhaul of the funding formula.

Next week, the Sun’s editorial board is meeting with Klaich, and we’d like your help. What would you ask him? In addition to the funding formula, are there other things you’d like to know?

We’ll take some of the questions and pose them to Klaich, and we’ll print the answers in a future edition.

You can send your questions to: letters@lasvegassun.com (put the word questions in the subject line). You can also fax your questions to: 383-7264.

To help you out, we’re providing you some of the material that we’re using to prepare for the meeting. It includes:

• A 2011 Sun story about the way colleges and universities are funded, complete with a terrific graphic walking through the steps.

• A recent Sun story about the proposed change in the way the higher education system is funded.

• A Reno Gazette-Journal story about the issue.

• Here’s the website for the legislative committee studying higher education funding. You can find agendas and minutes, and if you go to the bottom of the page and click on the hyperlinks to the individual meetings, you can find the extensive material the panel receives.

• The Nevada System of Higher Education’s proposal on how to fund colleges and universities can be found on the site. Look on the right side in the green box.

• A 2009 look at higher education funding from UNR is here. Following this link opens a pdf file.

Thanks in advance for your help.

Best,

Matt

Matt Hufman is the assistant managing editor/opinion.

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