UNR President Sandoval talks dual credit, film opportunities and staff raises
Purple Politics Nevada is KUNR’s weekly show about the 2023 Nevada Legislative Session. In this week’s episode, host Lucia Starbuck speaks with former Republican Governor and current University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) President Brian Sandoval about the institution’s dual credit program, potential film study opportunities, and legislature-approved raises for state employees.
Sandoval is nearing his third year as the head of the university with a number of goals, including expanding the institution’s dual credit program. This fall, UNR will offer the opportunity for high schoolers to earn college credit in five high schools in Washoe County and another 16 in Clark County.
“That’s really going to expand the pipeline and college attainment in the state of Nevada,” Sandoval said.
The 120-day Nevada Legislative Session adjourned on Monday with some legislation impacting the university.
SB 496 would have expanded film tax credits by $190 million annually for potentially 20-30 years. The majority was earmarked for two production campuses in Southern Nevada. This caught the attention of actor and Washoe County resident Jeremy Renner, who called for those benefits to include Northern Nevada.
Renner visited UNR’s campus in May to explore the potential of creating film study courses.
“Regardless of the outcome of this bill, when [Renner] visited our campus, he hadn’t been here before. My impression is that he’s committed to working with the university,” Sandoval said last week.
The legislature has since adjourned without passing the bill, but a special session could be held to address it.
Another legislative priority included raises for state employees. Gov. Joe Lombardo signed AB 522, which will give employees with the Nevada System of Higher Education, including UNR staff, cost of living adjustments up to 10% starting in July and up to 4% next fiscal year. For UNR, the legislature is only funding around 62%.
The decision might come down to individual institutions on how to fill the gap. The money could come from an increase in student fees, hiring freezes, or furloughs; however, Sandoval said no to furloughs.
“We’re looking at a lot of different scenarios. So just like everything else, if you buy something at Home Depot, and it costs Home Depot a lot more, they raise their prices. So similarly, if it’s going to cost more with regard to those raises, there’s also a proposal to increase student fees. That personally would be the least attractive option for me,” Sandoval said.
Listen to this week’s episode of Purple Politics Nevada with Lucia Starbuck to learn more about Sandoval’s goals for the university.
As a note of disclosure, KUNR’s broadcasting license is held by the Board of Regents of the Nevada System of Higher Education.
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LUCIA STARBUCK, HOST: Welcome to this week’s episode of Purple Politics Nevada. I’m your host, Lucia Starbuck. The name reflects the fact that Nevada isn’t red or blue — it’s both. Today I’m joined by former Republican Governor and current UNR President Brian Sandoval.
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STARBUCK: President Sandoval, you’ve been in your role for almost three years. What are your biggest accomplishments so far?
BRIAN SANDOVAL: I had a lot of goals that I had set. One of those was to set the stage for the construction of a new business building. On the south end of campus, there’s a lot of empty space. We will break ground hopefully on October 12, which will be the first day of our sesquicentennial, as well as a hotel conference center.
A second one for me was the acquisition of the Tahoe campus, and our first cohort of students will have a semester at Tahoe, like a semester abroad.
Another goal of mine was expanding dual credit, giving the opportunity to high school students on their own campuses to obtain college credit. This fall, we will be in 16 high schools in Clark County. We’ll have over 3,500 students taking the identical classes that our students would take here on campus. So that’s really gonna expand the pipeline and college attainment in the state of Nevada.
STARBUCK: Does that just exist in Clark County right now? And what are your goals for Washoe County?
SANDOVAL: I’ve been speaking with Superintendent Enfield, and we will be in five high schools in Washoe County this fall. The classes are taught by qualified teachers in the high schools under the supervision of our faculty. Our faculty meets on a weekly basis with the faculty member at the high school.
STARBUCK: Actor Jeremy Renner, he visited UNR a couple weeks ago to explore potential film studio possibilities. What did you two talk about?
SANDOVAL: There is a bill that would provide film tax credits, but that was exclusive to Southern Nevada and a development down there. Well, Jeremy spontaneously and on his own said, “What about Northern Nevada? What about the rest of the state?” In the Southern Nevada, they’re working with UNLV. So he reached out to me and we brought him on campus.
We introduced him to Al Stavitsky, our incredible dean of our School of Journalism. Even unknown to me, we already have a lot of courses in that area. We have screenwriting, documentary film, film editing. We have theater. There would be an opportunity to work with a studio that would come here. They’ve talked about Paramount and Disney, and it would open a myriad of opportunities for our students and perhaps a film study degree.
STARBUCK: Since this interview was recorded, the legislature adjourned without passing the bill to expand film tax credits, but they could hold a special session to address it.
If the bill doesn’t include Northern Nevada, would you still be open to exploring those possibilities?
SANDOVAL: Of course. And regardless of the outcome of this bill, when he visited our campus, he hadn’t been here before. You know, my impression is, is that he’s committed to working with the university.
STARBUCK: Another legislative priority has been raises for state employees, so UNR staff. How might these raises benefit UNR professors and other staff?
SANDOVAL: We’ve been through one of the most trying times in the history of higher education between the pandemic and the budget cuts. I mean, we took a 12% budget cut, and they also had to take six days of furloughs. So I’ve been committed to working really hard to get the cost of living adjustment [COLA]; that’s what the raises would be. And the proposal now would be up to 10% in the first year and up to 4% in the second year. There is another side to the coin, so to speak. The legislature is only going to fund those COLAs at 62%. We as Nevada System of Higher Education, also as the University of Nevada, Reno, we gotta find the rest.
STARBUCK: Where will that money come from?
SANDOVAL: The bill says up to 10% and 4%. There are different scenarios. One would be to reduce the amount of the COLAs. Another way is to create tiers. The lowest earners on campus would get more, and as you get a higher salary on campus, you would get less of a raise.
Just like everything else, if you buy something at Home Depot and it costs Home Depot a lot more, they raise their prices. So, similarly, if it’s gonna cost more, with regard to those raises, there’s also a proposal to increase student fees. That personally would be the least attractive option for me. And it really creates a difficult situation because you can either not raise fees, but then you got to find the money somewhere, which means cuts to services, which would affect the student experience.
STARBUCK: Are you considering furloughs or hiring freezes?
SANDOVAL: No. Well, furloughs, no. No, I wouldn’t consider that, but yes, hiring freezes would be another thing that’s on the table. It’s something we had to do when the legislature cut our budget. There are a lot of different options, and it’s a little premature to say which way we’re going.
You know, on the other hand, there’s some good news. You know, I talked about that 12% budget cut. Well, as part of the governor’s budget and in the legislative budget, they’ve restored that. And what we’re going to do with that is we’re gonna be hiring 42 new faculty members across campus.
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STARBUCK: That was UNR President Brian Sandoval. I’m Lucia Starbuck. Join me for a live taping of Purple Politics Nevada on June 14 from 6-8 p.m. at Reno Little Theater. RSVP is required. Learn more at KUNR.org.
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MARC GARBER: As a note of disclosure, KUNR’s broadcasting license is held by the Board of Regents of the Nevada System of Higher Education.
The theme song, “Vibe Ace” by Kevin MacLeod, is licensed under Creative Commons and was edited for this episode.