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Nevada System of Higher Education Chancellor Dan Klaich (Photo courtesy of unr.edu)
Nevada System of Higher Education Chancellor Dan Klaich (Photo courtesy of unr.edu)

Chancellor Klaich Wants a ‘Pile of Money for Higher Education’

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Nevada System of Higher Education Chancellor Dan Klaich said he supports Gov. Brian Sandoval’s New Nevada Education Initiatives, but admits without higher education the state will not achieve his goals to modernize the preK-12 education system.

The time is now for the Legislature to invest more in higher education, the chancellor said during a press conference March 24 at UNLV.

Legislators are considering partial funding for a new hotel college building at UNLV and initiatives to start a medical school, but they need to provide more funding than the governor has requested, he stated. Under Sandoval’s budget the medical school could not start accepting students in the next biennium — or until 2017. Klaich wants funds added to accelerate that process.

He expressed disappointment that the governor’s proposed budget does not include funds for faculty at any NSHE institutions to receive merit pay raises. Faculty pay was cut in 2009 and has only been partially restored. Traditionally faculty receive pay raises through both cost of living and merit raises that are based on their performance, but neither has occurred since the pay cut.

According to the chancellor, in the last seven years NSHE has done nothing but cut budgets because of reductions in its funding from the Legislature.

“It’s time to start rebuilding the education system so that the state of Nevada can be what we want it to be,” Klaich said. “I want to get a pile of money for higher education.”

According to Klaich the task of increasing funding for higher education is going to be harder to accomplish because Republicans are in control of both the Assembly and the Senate.

“To a significant portion of the Assembly ‘new funding’ seems to be a dirty word,” Klaich said.

Funding higher education at the level in the governor’s budget would require some tax increases. Because of that, despite being a Republican himself, Sandoval has found himself at odds with conservative members of his own party in the Assembly who have pledged that they will not increase any taxes.

The privately-funded conservative Nevada Policy Research Institute recently released its proposed state budget. It removes all of the new revenue proposals that Sandoval has in his budget. To make tax increases unnecessary the institute budget includes reduction of funding for the Nevada System of Higher Education of about $50 million in each year of the biennium.

Klaich said the Legislature needs to move in the other direction by increasing funding. He pointed out that outside consultants have estimated that a medical school at UNLV would produce more tax revenue within five to seven years for the state than it would be appropriating for it.

The chancellor said he is spending a considerable amount of time while the Legislature is in Carson City testifying on higher education measures and talking to legislators on behalf of NSHE.

“I don’t think we can wait any longer for the impact on diversification,” Klaich said. “Our job now, while the Legislature is in session, is to build on the governor’s recommendations.”

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