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Regents to discuss closures

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL CARSON CITY – The higher education system’s governing Board of Regents is expected to hear a proposal today that would eliminate Nevada State College, Desert Research Institute and two Northern Nevada community colleges as one way of dealing with potential budget cuts.”We wanted to lay these things on the table and show what some of the savings could be,” said James Dean Leavitt, chairman of the board, which is meeting at Western Nevada College in Carson City. He said, however, that he didn’t think there would be much of an appetite on the board for closing institutions.

“I think the board is going to be seriously opposed to eliminating any of our institutions,” Leavitt said.

The proposal would save the higher education system an estimated $15 million a year, according to an analysis sent to regents and other higher education leaders Thursday.

Chancellor Dan Klaich cautioned that the analysis is only preliminary, and figures could be slightly off.

The proposal would merge Nevada State and CSN, DRI and the two universities, and Western Nevada College and Great Basin College with Truckee Meadows Community College.

Officials said it was too early to know whether any campuses would be closed under the proposal, if it became a reality, or whether their administrations would simply be centralized to save money on personnel costs.

Under Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposed budget, the higher education system must cut $162 million in fiscal year 2013, when compared with the current year’s $558 million state appropriation.

The two universities have outlined plans to cut dozens of programs and lay off hundreds of faculty and staff in an effort to cut costs. College of Southern Nevada officials have said they may be forced to close all satellite centers and the Henderson campus. Other community colleges in the state have outlined similar plans.

But many of the proposed cuts might not be enough. UNLV’s budget cutting proposal, for example, saves only $32.6 million over the next two years – including potential salary cuts and tuition and fee increases. It must cut a total of $47.5 million.

Some within the university have pushed for the system to cut more from other institutions or to close institutions. Former UNLV President Carol Harter and former faculty senate chairman Bryan Spangelo, for example, have proposed similar plans.

Klaich has acknowledged in the past that closures might be possible. Regents are not expected to make a decision on the proposal or on any other budget cutting measures until after the Legislature and the governor agree on a state budget, probably in June.

Leslie Di Mare, president of Nevada State College, said closing the 9-year-old school would be a big mistake,

NSC fills a niche in the system that the community colleges and the university do not, she said. Half of the students in Nevada don’t graduate high school. NSC serves no-traditional college students. Half are minorities and first-generation college students.

“This state needs educated workers,” she said. She said the state needs a three-tiered system: community colleges, a state college, universities.

“Without that, the state is going to stay where it always is, last in everything” she said.