Despite his claims community colleges, especially Western Nevada College and Great Basin Community College, will train the employees needed by high-tech companies moving to Nevada including Tesla, Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposed budget deletes the added funding to help those schools survive formula changes.
Those formula changes left WNC and GBC in dire straits two years ago by shifting money they had received in the past south to UNLV and College of Southern Nevada.
University System Chancellor Dan Klaich told the combined Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means committees Thursday during the course of the recession all budgets including those for small colleges were cut about 30 percent.
On top of that, Klaich said the new formula developed by a study committee and the Board of Regents pretty much eliminated the “rural factor” that had previously helped those colleges survive.
“That was a significant change in the way rural institutions were funded,” Klaich said, adding their budgets “continued to fall.”
Lawmakers and the governor two years ago provided some “bridge funding” to help them through the transition to the new formula and, this time, regents asked that funding continue another two years.
“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 lawmakers.
Altogether, NSHE asked for $4.95 million over the biennium — $1.95 million for WNC and $3 million for GBC.
Sandoval has said several times community colleges are key to providing workers who have the technical training to fill high-tech jobs coming to Northern Nevada with Tesla and associated companies among other businesses. Nonetheless, he cut the $4.95 million regents included for WNC and GBC from the proposed budget.
Assemblymen Pat Hickey and Randy Kirner, both R-Reno, questioned the decision. Kirner was more emphatic arguing the so-called bridge funding, “isn’t all they need; they actually need more.”
“We’ve got big major companies like Tesla and Switch moving north and the community colleges are the key factor in providing skilled employees for them,” said Kirner. “With Tesla coming down the road, you have a big job preparing students for those roles. We can’t wait until they arrive.”
Klaich said he’s asking lawmakers for help on that issue.
“I know you don’t want to hear things like ‘catastrophic, the sky’s falling,’ but the sky is pretty close to falling in,” Klaich said.
Lawmakers said the issue would be discussed in depth during session by the subcommittee who reviews the system budgets.