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Amid COVID-19, Staff Furloughs And Student Fees Proposed By NSHE

Empty board room of the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) Board of Regents
The board room of the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) Board of Regents was empty during an emergency meeting on April 10, 2020, with regents attending remotely amid COVID-19.

Staff and students at Nevada's seven public colleges and universities would shoulder some of the costs of a reduced budget for the upcoming fiscal year that begins in July, under two of the three proposals approved Friday by the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) Board of Regents.

The proposals, requested by Governor Steve Sisolak to help the state weather the economic fallout of COVID-19, lay out three scenarios: a six percent cut, 10% cut, and 14% cut for each institution, as well as the Desert Research Institute.

NSHE is already in the process of reducing its budget for the current fiscal year (FY20) by four percent, achieved partly through a hiring freeze.

That policy would continue through the next fiscal year (FY21) under all three scenarios, but with new austerity measures under the 10% and 14% budget reductions.

Under the 10% scenario, NSHE would institute mandatory furlough days for professional staff. This would amount to six days of unpaid leave for each employee, taken as a half-day furlough each month from July 2020 to June 2021.

The 14% budget reduction would double the number of furlough days to 12 — taken as a whole day of unpaid leave each month — as well as levy new fees on students.

For undergraduates at the University of Nevada Reno and the University of Nevada Las Vegas, the fee rate would be $6 per credit hour enrolled. This means that an undergraduate taking 12 credit hours per semester — the minimum required to be considered a full-time student — would pay $144 over the course of the academic year.

Graduate students at those institutions would pay $8 per credit hour.

Students at Truckee Meadows Community College, Western Nevada College, Great Basin College, and College of Southern Nevada would each pay $3 per credit hour, while students at Nevada State College would pay $5 per credit hour.

UNR President Marc Johnson wrote in an email to students and staff that the university may need to reduce its course offerings, but that it will not eliminate academic programs, as it did following the 2008 financial crisis and Great Recession.

UNLV, meanwhile, did not rule out eliminating academic programs, as the university wrote in its proposal to NSHE: "While UNLV remains committed to maximizing efficiencies in our infrastructure and operations, the largest projected budget cuts in FY21 will necessarily require the reduction or elimination of programs and services to students."

Benjamin Payne is a graduate student at the Reynolds School of Journalism.

As a note of disclosure, the Board of Regents of the Nevada System of Higher Education owns the license to KUNR.

Benjamin Payne is a contributing reporter and floating host at KUNR. He is currently pursuing his master's degree at the University of Nevada, Reno's Reynolds School of Journalism, where he also works as a teaching assistant.
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