Institutional Culture Series Emphasizes CSN Budget Troubles
State Sen. Dina Titus reviews her notes before speaking about the challenges CSN and higher education will face in the upcoming legislative session.
State Sen. Dina Titus was on the Charleston campus Feb. 29 alongside administrators and faculty to discuss CSN’s budget woes as part of a panel discussion titled, “Institutional Quality in Times of Financial Crisis.”
A high ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee and a member of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas faculty, Titus, D-Las Vegas, was invited to participate in this CSN discussion about the recent budget cuts and provide a legislative overview of what higher education, and particularly CSN, are up against in the 2009 battle for more state funds.
“I feel like I was really invited to be lobbied and I’ve really been lobbied effectively, but you’re kind of preaching to the choir,” Titus told fellow panelists toward the end of the discussion.
Dr. Thill Raghu, CSN Professor of Philosophy in the Department of Social Sciences, moderates the discussion “Institutional Culture Series Emphasizes CSN Budget Troubles.”
Dr. Thill Raghu, CSN Professor of Philosophy in the Department of Social Sciences, moderated the discussion, which was part of the CSN Institutional Culture Series. Speakers included: Interim President Dr. Michael Richards; Dr. Alan Balboni, Professor of Political Science; Faculty Senate Chairwoman Judy Stewart; Punam Mathur, Senior Vice President of Corporate Diversity and Community Affairs at MGM; Regent Chairman Michael Wixom and Interim Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Carlos Campo.
Dr. Joshua Levin, Professor of Anthropology, speaks about maintaining excellence at CSN so that students obtain the quality education they deserve.
The featured panelists were Vice President of Finance Patty Charlton Dayar; Professor Carolyn Collins, of the Department of Physical Sciences; Dr. Charles Okeke, Dean of the School of Education, Behavioral & Social Sciences; Dr. Candace Kant, Professor of History and Women’s Studies; Dr. Joshua Levin, Professor of Anthropology and Senator Titus.
In the wake of a 4.5 percent budget cut because of a half-a-billion-dollar state revenue shortfall, the 2007-2009 biennial budget is shaping up to be one of the most challenging for CSN. The College faces serious financial constraints that have stretched resources beyond their means and are threatening the stability and foundation of the institution. Faculty, staff and administrators are struggling to address basic service needs for students, such as counseling, advising, lab support, operational support and technology resources for instructional equipment in the classroom and learning environment. The College began the biennium with a hold harmless position of $1 million, which required a reduction of services and operational support on top of a historic funding gap.
“CSN as we have learned over the past three months is in a perfect storm and the problem is expected to worsen,” said Dr. Richards.
Punam Mathur, Senior Vice President of Corporate Diversity and Community Affairs at MGM, speaks about how to maintain quality at in institution in the face of numerous obstacles.
He thanked the governor, regents and chancellor for making the cuts more bearable than the 8 percent cut to CSN’s biennial budget initially discussed this winter. The College has managed to make the 4.5 percent reductions without impacting its core mission, Richards said, but it is in a financially precarious position as the economy worsens.
In a national slowdown or recession, the demand for job skills and or retooling of skills will continue CSN’s growth but also continue to put pressure on the College’s resources, Richards said.
Nevada is also facing shifting demographics with dramatic increases in Latinos, low income families and first-time college goers. Participation rates among these groups are expected to grow, Richards said.
What he called the hidden “tidal wave” is the thousands of young people ages 18-24 who do not have high school diplomas in this state. “This group should receive policy priority because their lack of preparedness for the work force could mean they need more from society than they contribute.”
As that strain on Nevada is realized, CSN will have a significant role to play in ameliorating that education gap, Richards said.
All of the speakers focused on the current budget crisis. Dr. Balboni stated that as a community college we will continue to be overshadowed by other entities for funding and political clout and must learn to overcome that challenge.
“Who do we serve? We serve the under privileged and those who are not the politically powerful people, many of them being the sons and daughters of immigrants,” he said. “It’s tough going (for CSN) there is no doubt about it.”
Ms. Stewart discussed the funding gap at CSN and touched upon the CSN socio economic impact study that found students receive a 19.5 percent rate of return on their investment at CSN and for every dollar taxpayers invested in CSN they received a cumulative return of $3.60.
Ms. Mathur talked about using an organization’s strength – for example CSN’s great faculty and staff -- to strengthen the overall entity.
Regent Wixom emphasized that higher education needs to tell its story better to promote its cause before the Legislature. “All of us here to some degree are cheerleaders,” Wixom said.
Dr. Campo talked about how we are all doing more with less.
Charlton Dayar discussed the importance of community colleges in higher education across the nation and the challenges of access and growth we share.
“Community colleges are the fastest growing segment of higher education,” she said, adding that the population of students nationwide is expected to grow 13 percent by 2015.
Dr. Okeke, Dr. Kant and Dr. Levin all stressed the importance of maintaining quality student services and a quality education for students in the wake of the declining state economy and budget strains.
As the College looks ahead to the next legislative session, Titus described the unfavorable climate CSN can expect in Carson City.
“The Nevada government is run by extreme fiscal conservatives, who do not want to raise taxes,” Titus said.
In addition, there is an arcane funding formula that is based on the number of seats filled but disproportionately punishes institutions that had periods of rapid then slowed growth, she said. Higher education will compete directly with K-12, which has more pull than universities and colleges, especially in the Assembly. (Titus pointed out that K-12 has a politically active union and initiates statewide voter initiatives.)
“That’s not a very pretty picture. That’s not a very encouraging perspective,” she said.
“Legislators love students. If they can bring a dog, all the better,” she joked.
But she urged those in the room to find a way to better tell CSN’s story to Nevadans.