Why higher education isn't as bad off as they want you to believe
Week after week, Nevada System of Higher Education Chancellor Jim Rogers has been telling us how important higher education is, and how he needs more money to fund the system "properly." Ultimately, what he got for his efforts was a more than 30 percent reduction in appropriations from Gov. Gibbons' proposed budget. Needless to say, the chancellor is not happy.
But is NSHE really as bad off as some would have us believe?
After all, government isn't the only source of funding for our universities. The University of Nevada, Las Vegas, for example, received a $37 million donation from the Greenspun family. But sadly, the donation was used to help fund a palatial, $93 million campus building called Greenspun Hall, which cost roughly $780 per square foot.
Having become accustomed to blowing money on these kinds of costly goodies, it's no wonder those who run our higher education system are addicted to extravagant spending levels.
As for the alleged 52 percent budget cuts to UNLV and UNR, it is really a 50 percent cut in general fund appropriations, not a 50 percent cut in the budget. Remember, the general fund is just one portion of UNLV and UNR's operating budget.
Former State Sen. Bob Beers has a post over at Nevada Taxpayer Guide that outlines state appropriations to higher education. We have recreated his chart below, adding in fiscal years 2010 and 2011 along with the percentage increases in appropriations between each year (the figures are not adjusted for inflation).
Nevada System of Higher Education Appropriations 2002-2011
General Fund Appropriations
Clearly, NSHE has enjoyed a few generous spending increases in appropriations over the years—the bulk of which have been considerably higher than inflation.
Even with the new budget cuts, NSHE will still have $1.28 billion to spend over the next biennium, 25 percent more than it had during the 2001-03 biennium. Adjust for inflation, and there is virtually no difference between the 2010-11 and the 2001-03 appropriations for higher education.
The Nevada System of Higher Education does face tough choices. It must learn how to prioritize spending, eliminate waste, use technology to lower costs, and get back to basics—i.e. actually educating students, not just providing jobs to Ph.D.s.