RENO – The Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents approved an 8 percent tuition increase for undergraduate students on Friday in Las Vegas, turning down proposals to keep the tuition rate steady, or increase it by 5 or 13 percent. The tuition hike takes effect in the fall of 2012.
Administrators said they need more money to rehire faculty and staff after four years of budget cuts.
The board also voted to close the University of Nevada, Reno Fire Science Academy. The non-degree program is $36 million in debt.
After heavy debate, the regents decided on a middle-of-the-road solution to its funding problems. They will meet again at a special session Jan. 20 to discuss how the additional funds from the tuition increase will be spent.
Student government leaders asked the board to hold the tuition rate at $156 per credit or delay the vote, citing inflation and the already extraordinary cost of getting a college degree.
Undergraduates already had to pay 13 percent more this year. Undergraduate registration fees and tuition has increased 73 percent in Nevada since 2007.
“How much more are we going to gouge the students here?” asked University of Nevada, Las Vegas student Rachel Stevens. “Why is inflation for tuition here twice that of the country’s?”
Many regents were willing to take the decision back to students, democracy-style, and delay the vote until they had a better understanding of what students wanted. But by 2 p.m. the board had settled for the 8 percent hike, rejecting previous proposals of a 5- or 13-percent increase.
Aimee Riley, student body chair at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said the tuition increase would limit access to college by pricing students out of an education.
Officials with Truckee Meadows Community College told the board they would hold back 15 percent of its increases in financial aid if the board did not pass a tuition hike.
The most vocal regents included Cedric Grear, Ron Knecht and Jack Lund Schofield. All were willing to settle on smaller increases or tabling the matter for a future meeting.
The increase comes on the heels of news Friday that the board had renewed Chancellor Dan Klaich’s five-year contract the day before, giving him a salary of $303,000. Klaich oversees the Nevada System of Higher Education and was appointed chancellor in 2009. He also served on the board from 1983 to 1997.
Regent Michael Wixom of Las Vegas said there was only one solution to the Fire Science Academy based at the University of Nevada, Reno, but it was “not a successful one.”
After hearing a comprehensive report about the academy, presented by UNR President Marc Johnson, the board approved its closure for Dec. 31.