Nevada’s Glorious Budget Crisis

The state of Nevada is now facing some of the most intense cuts to higher education of any state in the country.

According to an editorial by Glenn Cook in the Las Vegas Review-Journal:

[Gov. Brian] Sandoval wants to cut $162 million from the system’s subsidies for the 2011-13 biennium. And the response of campus presidents has been downright fatalistic. Sure, they’re protesting the new governor’s budget, warning that it threatens the state’s future. But with each passing day—the 2011 legislative session already is more than a quarter complete—it becomes clearer that they can’t expect a fiscal rescue from the effects of the recession.

And so Nevada regents are preparing for major budget cuts. Cook calls it “Extreme Makeover: College Edition.” This building contracting language is deliberate. Cook thinks these cuts can be great for Nevada public colleges. As Cook explains,

It’s up to the regents to take a broader, systemwide approach to scaling back operations. It’s an opportunity to reward success, consolidate, eliminate redundancies and inefficiencies and give students and taxpayers better value.

So those cuts will be great!

As a starting point, regents should ask themselves a simple question: Why in the world would a local high school graduate want to pay roughly $5,700 to take a year’s full load (30 credits) of 100- and 200-level classes at UNLV? In the fall of 2010, only 31 percent of those courses were taught by full-time faculty, and 32 percent were taught by graduate students.

At the College of Southern Nevada, those same 30 credits would cost a little more than $2,000. At Nevada State College, they’d cost about $3,000. The right classes can be transferred to UNLV….That’s more efficient. That’s better value.

Well sure it’s better value for the student. But it’s better value due to the support of the legislature.

By that logic, in fact, it would be much more efficient—and much better value—if the state just raised taxes and brought the cost of Nevada State College and UNLV down to like $5 a credit.

Budget cuts, giving Nevada colleges less money, will surely not result in higher quality education. It will just mean bigger classes, less academic programs, and higher tuition for students.

That might be more efficient, but it’s not better value.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer