WNC closure rumors refuted

Rumors that Western Nevada College will be closed in an effort to balance the Nevada System of Higher Education's budget were refuted by Regent Ron Knecht on Tuesday.

Knecht said the closure of the Carson campus was only the remotest possibility in the worst case.

"We need to work on contingencies that take the governor's budget into consideration, and then hope we can do better than that," he said.

Previous suggestions that Western Nevada and Truckee Meadows community colleges be merged weren't found to be cost effective, Knecht said.

"Even if we did that, it would be the administration that would be consolidated," he said. "The campus would still be open."

On Tuesday afternoon, Western Nevada Student Body President Jason McGill sent out a letter saying that the possibility that the college would be closed or merged with Truckee Meadows had become likely scenarios.

"It is about time we all begin to accept the fact that these are no longer rumors, but likely scenarios," he wrote to students. "It is no longer a matter of what if, but more like when."

McGill encouraged students to attend the Board of Regents meetings on Thursday and Friday on the WNC campus in Carson City.

He also urged students to attend a rally for education in front of the Legislative Building on March 21, where students from the two universities are planning to gather.

Knecht said that regents will discuss the contingencies for the higher education system on Friday morning.

"This is being handled professionally by the administration and will be handled professionally by the board of regents," he said.

He said that nerves of staff members and students at the college are a result of the rumors.

"I want to reassure people that there isn't a monster contingency like that," he said.

Knecht pointed out that no one will actually know what's going to happen with the budget until after the Legislature finishes its work. He said that it would be the regents' June meeting before they could make any final decision on the budget.

College President Carol Lucey issued a statement saying that cuts proposed would threaten the college's mission.

"The current budget proposal for state funding to Western Nevada College cuts General Fund support over the next two years by 31.7 percent, on top of cuts already made in each of the last three years," she said. "These new proposed cuts would directly threaten WNC's mission to serve students and employers across our 18,000-square-mile service area, and may make it impossible for many residents to earn a college degree and enhance or obtain workforce skills."

Last week, Chancellor Dan Klaich said the governor's decision to cut $162 million in general fund from the higher education budget is going to fundamentally change the system.

The Nevada System of Higher Education was cut 17.7 percent in total funding - most of it caused by the governor's decision not to make up for lost stimulus money. The total reduction translates to $283 million.

The cut would have been much deeper but Sandoval sought $121 million generated by 9 cents of the property tax collected in Clark and Washoe counties directly to the two university campuses.

On Monday, Senate Democrats approved a bill that would reduce that 9 cents to 7 cents adding another $27 million to the amount required to be cut from the higher education budgets.


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