A revised funding formula offered by the Nevada System of Higher Education should go a long way toward restoring Great Basin College’s budget and the university system’s credibility in the wake of a scandal that led to the sudden departure of its chancellor last year.
New chancellor John White and Board of Regents Chairman Rick Trachok recently spoke with the Elko Daily Free Press and described the changes, which include advisory councils that will address issues specific to community colleges.
There are many ways to organize funding distribution in a college system, based on factors such as credit hours of enrollment. Regents shocked rural Nevada in 2012 when they came up with a new formula that put more funding into schools that have higher graduation rates and offer expensive programs such as those needed for master and doctoral degrees.
The formula cut more than 32 percent from GBC’s budget, and smaller amounts from other rural colleges, while greatly benefitting the College of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas. Lawmakers have been approving “bridge” funding to help GBC survive the blow, but that expired last year.
The latest system takes into account the higher cost of “career and technical educational” courses that help with workforce development – a key focus of colleges such as Great Basin.
“It’s much more expensive to do advanced welding than it is English, but the compensation from the state was identical,” Trachok said. “We wanted to make sure that we were able to adjust for that, which doubled the type of funding for those types of courses.”
The CTE increase will “slightly exceed” what the bridge funding provided, White said.
We are pleased that a higher level of funding is in the works. The 2012 cuts were strongly opposed by GBC President Mark Curtis, who considered a reduction of nearly one-third to be an unprecedented assault on GBC.
It wasn’t until four years later that a Las Vegas Review-Journal investigation revealed the deception that went into developing the funding formula: “Nevada System of Higher Education officials actively worked to undermine the Legislature’s effort to overhaul college and university funding models in recent years, going so far as to present a false document to lawmakers and joking about it afterward,” the paper reported after obtaining emails between NSHE and a supposedly independent consultant.
Then-Chancellor Dan Klaich retired less than a month after the report came out.
Resentment spilled into the current legislative session, in which a bill was introduced to set up a separate community college system. That idea is opposed by Regents, including rural Nevada’s new representative Cathy McAdoo of Elko, as well as by Curtis.
The new direction in funding is welcome news at GBC, which will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in May. The college is also beginning a new chapter as Curtis retires and the search is underway for a president.
As White told the Free Press, universities are under increasing scrutiny as lawmakers demand accountability. We see that as a good thing. No system can operate efficiently without oversight. There will never be a totally “fair” way to distribute funding or measure performance, but for the future’s sake we need to keep striving for a balance that enables young adults from a variety of backgrounds to get the education they need in order to contribute to society.