Addition and subtraction
What UNR’s budget reduction means to you
Since 2009, the University of Nevada, Reno has lost $75 million in state funding, and as of this most recent legislative session, another $25.4 million is gone for each year of the current biennium. Even so, many say it could have been a lot worse.
“Students coming back this fall will see the university pretty much as they’ve seen it in the past,” said Interim President Marc Johnson. “We cut out some academic programs and degrees, but those students were notified over a year ago, and they have been working with advisors to line up classes and to graduate in majors they started with.”
He adds that there have been no additional program closures since last summer, and returning students should find the same set of degree offerings—albeit with fewer faculty in several areas.
For freshmen who have no previous experience to compare it to, UNR may appear to be as robust a university as any other.
Still, you can’t lose more than $100 million and not feel it. Here’s a look at the wins, losses and saves, and how all this will affect students.
Despite much “streamlining,” many programs and services were given a reprieve, including:
• University of Nevada Cooperative Extension: Early budget proposals would have eradicated much of this important research and educational programming arm. The UNCE will be retained, though with greatly reduced numbers of educators and subject-area specialists.
• Bureau of Mines & Geology: Though downsized to the tune of approximately $1 million, the Bureau will be retained.
• French major and minor: Early proposals were bidding au revoir to these programs, but department cost-saving measures saved them.
• Department of Theater and Dance: This department got a last-minute stay of execution after much deliberation by faculty and administration. Though the department will see faculty and staff reductions—and potentially fewer performances—the bachelor of arts and minors in theater and dance were spared.
• Special Collections: Thanks to a new plan for private funding, this home for historical archives will remain open.
• The Millennium Scholarship: This scholarship has been assured funding through 2015. Currently, more than 21,000 students receive it, which, according to the Nevada Treasurer’s Office, funds approximately 56 percent of a student’s tuition costs.
• Despite obvious losses to faculty and staff across campus, losses were tempered through a combination of six-day-per-year furloughs and a 2.5 percent across-the-board salary cut.
“Through all the budget-cutting, while I must say some classes have increased in size, we’ve kept most of our faculty at about the same levels, and we still maintain a real emphasis on quality education,” said Johnson. “As long as programs are continuing, students will still have the quality they’ve had in the past.”
• BFA in Theater degree: The only program going on hiatus this fall is the bachelor of fine arts in theater. Those currently enrolled are being allowed to complete their program, but new students interested in enrolling will find it unavailable. Fortunately, the program has typically been under-enrolled, so few students should feel this change.
• Student support and facilities services: Though these services were all retained, their staffs were trimmed. For students, this will mean longer lines and slower response times. As President Johnson put it, “Students need to plan ahead and get things done early. Financial aid check-ins on the first day of school will have a hard time getting any attention.”
• Lynda.com: This information technology training program, which provided students with a variety of training materials in Adobe, Apple and Microsoft programs, will no longer be offered, due to a combination of budget cuts and what the Information Technology Department’s website terms “a significant price hike” by Lynda.com.
• Library materials: Students may be affected by a cut to the new materials budget.
• State funding to KUNR and CASAT: Though the area’s public radio station and the Center for Application of Substance Abuse Technologies (CASAT) will remain operational, they will lose their state appropriations, which may affect their realm of services and staffing levels.
• Reorganized colleges: Curricula for education, agriculture, mining, languages and libraries have been reorganized and now fall under different colleges. This may result in losses to certain courses and specialization. For example, now, instead of four separate elementary education degree offerings, there will be one. However, the result of this could be a shortened time to degree and enhanced mathematics requirements, which could ultimately have benefits to the education workforce.
• More of your money: As students planning to begin school this month likely already know, an undergraduate registration fee increase of 13 percent goes into effect this fall semester. Graduate students will pay 5 percent more this year, and another 5 percent next year. Additionally, many student support services are moving to fee-based availability, and fees across the board have been increased. Fortunately, 15 percent of the increased fees will be allocated to financial aid to assist some students with paying these fees, and more need-based scholarships will be available to students.
Despite UNR’s tough economic situation, there have been several positive changes, including the following, which this year’s flock of students will notice:
• The William N. Pennington Health Sciences Building: Doors just opened in July on this new facility, which will enable all medical and nursing students to be housed under one roof for the first time. This also makes the old Orvis School of Nursing building available for repurposing; President Johnson said that while decisions have not been made, the school is looking at using the building to integrate several coordinating, off-campus programs, such as CASAT, back onto campus.
• The Department of Natural Resources and Environment Sciences: Finally, this department, which has been off campus on Valley Road, will be moving back to campus and into the Fleischmann Building.
• National Merit Scholars: Last year saw UNR’s highest number of National Merit Scholars—38. Johnson reported that this year, that number is expected to approach 50.
• Increased enrollment: One projected side-effect of budget cuts and increased tuition was a decrease in enrollment. But Johnson said this doesn’t seem to be bearing out. In fact, enrollment is up from last year—which students may see as a loss when they find residence halls to be a bit crowded.
• Increased online offerings: Johnson points out that while many schools facing budget cuts have opted to cut back campus offerings in exchange for offering less through online classes, UNR’s strategy is slower growth designed to enhance on-campus offerings. Online courses will increase as a result of student demand, but Johnson adds that 80 percent of UNR’s online course enrollments are by resident students. One addition that graduate students may find exciting is the online executive MBA program, starting up this fall.
Following the Pack
There’s another big change students should brace for: This is the last year that the Pack will play in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC). Next fall, UNR will play in the Mountain West Conference, with opponents like the University of New Mexico, Colorado State, UNLV (for the first time in a while), and Air Force. Other WAC teams that have transitioned to the Mountain West, or will soon, include Hawaii, Fresno and Boise State.
“This should be an exciting year for students to follow in football,” said Johnson.