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Nevada’s College Funding Formula Under Attack

Nevada’s College Funding Formula Under Attack

Community College of Southern Nevada (CCSN) President Richard Carpenter has criticized the state’s college funding formula, saying it penalizes southern Nevada students — particularly minorities.

Carpenter said he hopes lawmakers will alter a complex equation that leads to a discrepancy in funding between CCSN and other institutions, including University of Nevada-Reno (UNR) and University of Nevada-Las Vegas (UNLV).

“The last tweaking of the funding formula assumes all institutions would grow at the same pace,” he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “It penalizes disproportionate growth.”
With about 35,000 full- and part-time students, CCSN is the largest institution in the state’s higher-education system and one of the largest in the nation.

About 14,100 minority students attended CCSN in the fall — about half of Nevada’s minorities in the system.

The disproportionate funding at an institution with so many minorities could open CCSN up to litigation, Carpenter said.

CCSN received the third-largest chunk of money from the state in 2003-2005 — about $199 million. UNR got $301 million and UNLV $379 million.

But on a per student basis this school year, CCSN got only $5,451, compared with the state average of $8,889. UNR received $11,808 per student and UNLV $9,899.

Elsewhere, per-pupil spending averages $11,233 at Great Basin Community College, $6,581 at Truckee Meadows Community College, $8,855 at Western Nevada Community College and $10,292 at Nevada State College.

“If you don’t look at the human side of this, it would be in CCSN’s best interest to cap enrollments and turn away students by the thousands,” Carpenter said. “You could do that, but then you’re going to need to increase your budget for prisons.”

Interim Chancellor Jim Rogers said he doesn’t plan to lobby hard on the issue at the Legislature. He urged lawmakers to conduct a study to better understand how to improve the funding formula.

“We know that there is something wrong, but the extent of it we don’t know,” Rogers said. “I haven’t spent much time on it because of other immediate problems.”

Assemblywoman Chris Giunchigliani,     D-Las Vegas, said she wants to bring up the funding formula during the legislative budget process.
Giunchigliani, a member of the Legislature’s Finance Committee, said she thinks the opening of Nevada State College might be to blame for CCSN’s reduced funding.

“In order to fund that opening, did we actually take money from another institution?” she asked. “If that’s the case, it’s not fair. It’s not equitable. I will be raising that issue.”

The state last conducted a study of the funding formula in 1999, with changes going into effect in 2001.

Regent Steve Sisolak said a provision in the new formula prevents institutions, particularly those in northern Nevada, from receiving a decrease in funding for several years.

Money now should go directly to institutions dealing with growth such as UNLV and CCSN, he said.

“This is the perfect time to do this, considering there is a budget surplus,” Sisolak said. “Maybe we can make some progress.”

—  Associated Press

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