Bridging Funding for WNC and GBC Should Be a Top Priority

Since GBC President Mark Curtis came on board three years ago, he has had to cope with the defunding of 58 full time positions, representing a 27% cut, with the college’s share of state operating funds plummeting 25%, from $16 million to $12 million. At the same time, graduations rose by 60% between 2010 and 2014, a minor miracle made possible by Dr. Curtis’ adept reallocation of resources and tireless efforts to seek out gifts and grants to fill in the gaps.

Now GBC faces the prospect of an imminent $1.45 million budget cut, necessitating a further staff reduction of of 25 full time positions, leaving state-funded headcount 38% below pre-recession levels. Even a miracle worker like Dr. Curtis can only do so much with so few resources in such a limited amount of time. It can’t be done.

Chet Burton has put his business experience to good use in coping with the ongoing budget squeeze without resorting to further faculty or curriculum cuts, and none are in his plans going forward. His decision to defund the baseball and softball teams hasn’t been popular, but when you put the interests of students first, something has to give. Like Dr. Curtis, he has a plan in place to live within the constraints of the new funding realities, but fully implementing that plan in the next 90 days is not humanly possible.

The Chancellor’s budget request for the next biennium includes more than $40 million to start up a medical school at UNLV, and $3 million to compensate for a drop in enrollment at that university’s law school. I have little doubt that those are worthy goals, but they must not be allowed to eclipse the higher education needs of the rural counties. GBC and WNC are already doing more with less, and deserve to be provided with the resources necessary to finish the job.

The Rural Factor

— by Rich Dunn, RNDC 2nd Vice Chair

The ‘Rural Factor’ and the cooperative extension are prime examples of what’s at stake for the 15 rural counties in the 78th legislative session. If there’s a way for Clark and Washoe to zero out budget lines that fund the rurals’ unique needs, no one – most notably the governor – seems to give a thought to the consequences. The metro counties just take what they want because they can.

Rural Nevada is represented exclusively by Republicans, who now control both sides of the legislature. These have never been partisan issues, and our legislative representatives need to use their intra-party clout to restore these budget cuts.

All this is just a warmup for the water wars still to come. All 17 counties have less than 10 inches of precip a year, but only the rurals have any ground water left, water needed for AG, mining and environmental protection. But it looks very different from the state’s population centers. As Harry Reid said on his last stop in the rurals, if it comes down to a choice between growing alfalfa in White Pine and flushing toilets in Clark, he knows which side he would come down on. As do we.

WNC and GBC is receiving a lump of coal

Lahontan Valley News editorial published Jan 28, 2015

In the governor’s State of the State speech that outlined his education spending, two stepchildren of Nevada’s education funding received a lump of coal.

Because of a revision in the funding formula, the rural factor for community colleges in Fallon, Minden and Elko, for example, was eliminated. Local officials and some — not all — regents worked unsuccessfully to restore the Rural Factor, a formula based on lower enrollment to teacher ratios based on part-time faculty.

Not only were lawmakers asleep at their desks when the Rural Factor was eliminated years ago, but a majority of regents allowed the factor, which was created by former Fallon state Sens. Carl Dodge and Virgil Getto in the 1970s, to disappear without fanfare.

In 2013, Gov. Brian Sandoval and the legislature permitted “bridge funding” to help the community colleges transition to the new formula proposed more than two years ago.

Regents received $4.95 million over the biennium — $1.95 million for WNC (Western Nevada College) and $3 million for GBC (Great Basin College).

Chancellor Dan Klaich asked for another “bridge funding” measure of the same amount to help WNC and GBC during the next biennium, but the governor cut the request.

“We have requested you give these colleges two more years to get to the level of funding fully implied by the formula simply because the drop off is too steep for them to make that jump in two years,” Klaich told Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means committees last week.

And let’s examine funding for the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension (UNCE), which had its budget and programs whacked more than 30 percent during the dark years of the Great Recession from 2009-2013. It would be important to see funding restored to UNCE’s budget since the governor has highly touted agriculture, the third largest industry in the state.

As we discussed in a prior editorial, the governor proposes money for a medical program at UNLV and $13 million for the Desert Research Institute, proposals that could either be delayed or reduced to provide bridge funding to WNC and GBC.

For example, during the next five years, we see more technical, advanced types of jobs coming into the state than those coming into the medical field. One economic development authority predicts as many as 51,000 jobs could be coming to Nevada within the decade.

Since additional money for WNC and GBC has been removed, then the Assembly and Senate must add bridge funding to ensure WNC and GBC have a major role in shaping Nevada’s economic future, not being pushed to the back of the room like some illegitimate, red-headed stepchildren.

A Difference in Priorities

Shelley Berkley Votes To Stop Student Loans From Doubling
By Ending Taxpayer Giveaways To Big Oil Companies

Meanwhile, Sen. Dean Heller Supports Rolling Back Women’s Health Care –
Like Preventative Cancer Screenings – Instead of Taking On
His Big Oil and Wall Street Backers

Las Vegas – While incumbent Senator Dean Heller continues to protect taxpayer giveaways to Big Oil companies, Shelley Berkley today voted to stop the student loan rate from doubling on Nevada middle-class families by ending these same unnecessary handouts to the top 5 Big Oil companies. 

And what is Senator Dean Heller’s solution to preventing student loan rates from doubling? Heller voted to roll back women’s health care options – including routine preventative examinations such as breast cancer screenings – rather than ending taxpayer subsidies to his Big Oil backers.

“As the first person in my family to go to college, I know firsthand how important affordable education is for middle-class families.  That’s why I was proud to support a plan today that prevents student loan rates from doubling on Nevada middle-class families by ending huge taxpayer subsidies to Big Oil companies,” said U.S. Senate candidate Shelley Berkley.  “Unfortunately, my opponent Senator Dean Heller wants to roll back health care options for women, such as preventative breast cancer screenings, instead of taking on his Big Oil and Wall Street backers.”

In 2007, interest rates on need-based student loans (subsidized Stafford Loans) were cut from 6.8% in the 2006-2007 academic year to 3.4% in the 2011-2012 academic year.  Fifteen million students benefitted from these lower rates.  However, if Congress doesn’t act, these reduced rates are set to expire on July 1st of this year.

The Impact in Nevada

If the student loan interest rates were to rise in Nevada, on average, students will have to pay $982 more over the life of their loan for one year in borrowing. LINK

Total Number of Students Who Would Be Impacted from

  • Carson City – 65
  • Elko – 409
  • Henderson – 2,761
  • Incline Village – 586
  • Las Vegas – 13,700
  • Lincoln -1,074
  • Reno – 8,716
  • Sparks – 505
  • Total – 27,816

Average Debt at Graduation for Nevada Students: $16,622

Proportion of Students in Nevada With Debt: 39% LINK


Dean Heller’s Anti-Middle Class Record

Republican Senator Dean Heller has a poor record on higher education.  Instead of helping students and middle-class Nevada families obtain access to an affordable higher education, Republicans like Dean Heller have consistently sought to cut funding for education, including student aid and Pell Grants.  The devastating cuts that Dean Heller supports puts the future of our state at jeopardy as fewer Nevadans would be able to obtain the education and training they need to compete in a 21st Century economy.

During the 2009-2010 academic year, the percentage students at the following Nevada schools received Pell Grant assistance to help pay for college:

  • College of Southern Nevada – 16%
  • Great Basin College – 13%
  • Nevada State College – 16%
  • UNLV – 24%
  • UNR – 21%
  • Western Nevada College – 22%
  • Sierra Nevada College – 31%
  • University of Southern Nevada – 26%

Heller Voted To Cut The Average Nevada Undergraduate Receiving Pell Grants’ Assistance By More Than $600. In February 2011, Heller voted for the Republican Continuing Resolution.  Under H.R.1, the average Nevada undergraduate with Pell college tuition assistance would see their assistance cut by more than $600. [HR 1, Vote 147, 2/19/11; DPCC fact sheet]

Heller Voted Against Increasing Pell Grants Funding By $39 Million. In February 2011, Heller voted against an amendment that would have increased funds for federal Pell Grants by $39 million, offset by a reduction in funds available for Department of Education Program Administration.  The amendment was not adopted 186-238.  [CQ Floor Votes; HR 1, Vote #146, 2/19/11]

Senate Republican Student Loan Bill, Like House GOP Bill, Would Cut Funds From Preventative Health Fund. In May 2012 CNN wrote, “The fight over a potential doubling of student loan interest rates this summer hits the Senate floor Tuesday with Republicans promising to block a White House-backed plan unless Democrats allow a vote on a GOP alternative. Interest rates on federal student loans are scheduled to rise to 6.8% from the current 3.4% in July unless Congress acts. But Democrats and Republicans disagree over how to offset the $6 billion it would cost to keep the rates down. Democrats want to eliminate a tax break for some corporations, while Republicans want to pull funds from a preventative health care fund set up under the health reform law.” [CNN, 5/8/12]

House GOP Student Loan Bill Would Cut $17 Prevention And Public Health Fund “Whose Projects Include Breast Cancer Screening, Childhood Immunizations, Research And Wellness Education.” In April 2012 the Associated Press wrote, “The House GOP bill would cut a $17 billion prevention and public health fund whose projects include breast cancer screening, childhood immunizations, research and wellness education.” [Associated Press, 4/26/12]

Office Of Budget And Management: House GOP Student Loan Bill Would Cut Program That “Would Provide For Hundreds Of Thousands Of Screenings For Breast And Cervical Cancer.”In April 2012 ABC News wrote, “In a statement released Friday, the OMB said the GOP version of the bill includes ‘an attempt to repeal the Prevention and Public Health Fund, created to help prevent disease, detect it early, and manage conditions before they become severe.  Women, in particular, will benefit from this Prevention Fund, which would provide for hundreds of thousands of screenings for breast and cervical cancer.  This is a politically-motivated proposal and not the serious response.’” [ABC News, 4/27/12]

Shelley Berkley’s Record of Standing up For Nevada Middle-Class Families

Shelley Berkley has been a leader on keeping college affordable for middle-class Nevada families, having co-sponsored a bill earlier this year to extend the student loan rate reduction by closing tax loopholes for big oil and gas companies, and voting to protect Pell Grants.  As a mother, and the first person in her family to go to college, Shelley knows first-hand the invaluable role affordable education plays in keeping Nevada’s middle class families strong.

Berkley Co-Sponsored Bill To Extend Student Loan Rate Reduction.  In 2012, Berkley co-sponsored HR 4816, which would amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to extend the reduced interest rate for Federal Direct Stafford Loans.  The bill would be funded by closing tax loopholes for big oil and gas companies.  [HR 4816, 4/25/12]

Berkley Voted To Consider Stop The Rate Hike Act.  Berkley voted to bring the House Democratic student loan bill, Stop the Rate Hike Act, H.R. 4816, to the House floor for consideration.  Republicans, however, voted to block the House from even debating this measure. [H RES 691, Vote #389, 6/20/12; Congressional Record.

Berkley Voted Against Cutting $600 In Pell Grant Assistance For Average Nevada Undergraduate. In 2011, Berkley voted against the Republican continuing resolution.  Under H.R.1, the average Nevada undergraduate with Pell college tuition assistance will see their assistance cut by almost $600. The measure passed 235-189. [HR 1, Vote #147, 2/19/11; Democratic Policy and Communications Center]

Berkley Voted To Protect Pell Grants from $39 Million Cut. In 2011, Berkley voted for an amendment that would have increased funds for Federal Pell Grants by $39 million, offset by a reduction in funds available for Department of Education Program Administration.  The amendment failed to be adopted 186-238.   [HR 1, Vote #146, 2/19/11]

Berkley Voted For $4.95 Billion For Pell Grants. In 2010, Berkley voted for a portion of H.R. 4899, the Supplemental Appropriations Bill, which included an “amendment that would appropriate…$4.95 billion for Pell grants.”  The funding increase was offset through “$11.7 billion in rescissions from programs that no longer require the funding and $4.7 billion in expected savings from changes to mandatory programs.”  The House agreed to the motion by a vote of 239-182. [H.R. 4899, Vote #430, 7/1/10]

Berkley Voted For Higher Education Reauthorization, Which Would Increase Pell Grant To $8,000 Per Year. In 2008, Berkley voted to reauthorize the Higher Education Act of 1965 through Fiscal Year 2012.  According to Congressional Quarterly, the legislation “would reauthorize the Higher Education Act through fiscal 2012.  The bill would increase the maximum Pell grant to $8,000 per year by the 2014-15 academic year.  It would bar lenders from giving schools financial perks in order to get on a ‘preferred lender list.’  It also would penalize states that cut funding for institutions of higher education by withholding some federal funds if the state’s funding for such institutions falls below the average amount allocated by the state over the last five academic years.  It would establish a new loan forgiveness program, providing up to $2,000 a year for five years for individuals such as nurses, early childhood educators and librarians serving in high-need areas.”  The House passed the legislation by a vote of 380-49. [H.R. 4137, Vote #544, 7/31/08]

Berkley Voted Against Pell Grant Award Cuts.  In 2003, Berkley voted against a budget resolution that provided for $1.3 trillion in tax cuts over ten years, while cutting programs for children and public education by $38 billion over ten years below the amount needed to maintain service levels.  It provided virtually no increase for education programs overall and cut funding for No Child Left Behind programs by $1 billion (from $23.8 billion to $22.8 billion).   In addition, the House Budget eliminated 46 education programs (such as Rural Education, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Use Technology), cut the after school program by 40 percent (or $400 million) and reduced the maximum Pell Grant award (from $4,050 to $4,000). The budget passed 215-212.  [HCR 95, Vote #82, 3/20/03]