Higher Ed Funding Process Siphons Money From UNLV

Sharon Rieger's picture
Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Gerry Bomotti, UNLV senior vice president for finance and business, recalls a budget meeting during the legislative session in which an elected official asked, “If fees are raised, does the university get to keep that money?” The answer given and accepted: Yes.

The real answer? Not exactly.

Welcome to the world of higher education funding, Nevada-style. It’s a politically charged, convoluted black hole fueled by an algorithm few understand and governed by a body of people who largely don’t have college degrees themselves. In Nevada, “yeses” are “maybes,” students are taxpayers and educational institutions are playing a zero-sum game. Thousands of people are suffering because of it, but the suffering is not equal. Not by a long shot.

One institution gets systematically shortchanged: UNLV.

Each of the seven institutions in the Nevada System of Higher Education raises money through student tuition and fees. Combined, that totaled more than $182 million last year. That chunk of change is poured into the state’s general fund, that big (but getting smaller) pool of money that pays for prisons, human services and welfare, among other things. Then, the government allocates money to the educational institutions based on budgets the state legislators set for them.

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