University President Milt Glick had a page of notes handy during his 75-minute town hall meeting Monday in the theater of the new Joe Crowley Student Union.
Yet, as is his wont, Glick deviated from the notes often, in his customary frank language.
Fielding questions from an audience of about 150 members of the University's faculty and staff, he addressed several issues that have been on the minds of many recently. In particular, Glick tackled a pressing concern for many on campus: the specter of possible budget cuts due to the downturn in the state's economy.
Media reports have indicated that the state's budget shortfall could be as much as $250 million, and Gov. Jim Gibbons has made preliminary requests for state agencies to consider budget cuts of up to 8 percent.
Facing such budget pressure will not be easy, Glick said.
"I continue to be very optimistic about our ability to serve the state," Glick said. "But how we handle the short-term challenges will have a lot do with how optimistic we can be about the long-term."
Glick gave a detailed explanation of what the "short-term challenges" mean to the University.
He said that reports of the higher education system receiving $165 million in "new money" in the budget unduly simplify a complex situation. All but about $3 million of "new money" has already been allocated by the Nevada State Legislature, mandated for the institution's needs in areas such as COLA, merit raises, fringe benefits and costs associated with opening new buildings.
"(The state is) saying that we have $165 million of new money, and that all we are asking is you give back $64 million,'" Glick said. "It's important that we all understand this problem. They did give us an operating budget of $165 in new money; unfortunately, it isn't green money and they're asking for us to give back green money. ... The point is, we cannot say we'll reduce the raises or we won't be opening this building, to do that, we'd be in violation of the law.
"The answer is we don't have $60 million in undesignated ‘new money.'"
Glick said the University's flexibility in dealing with budget cuts is further impaired by an existing shortfall of up to $6 million due to lower-than-expected enrollment and tuition collection last year, as well as a long-term structural deficit.
"We were well on our way to finding the $6 million solution, and we had made real progress on it," he said. "We started with a $6 million problem, and now an 8 percent cut would mean $16 million this year, and another $16 million cut next year. That's $32 million over the biennium."
Glick said he and the institution's leaders are working to find ways for the University to weather the coming months. He has asked the Faculty Senate to supply "two or three leaders to sit with us to think through this and how do we minimize the harm to the institution." A possible tuition of increase of up to 9 percent for undergraduate students and 10 percent for graduate students could also be a way for the University to maximize an underutilized revenue stream, Glick said.
In addition, the University, through the work of the Provost's Office and Student Services, has embarked on an effort to attract or retain 500 students for the coming year.
"We want to do this because this is good for the state and because our budget is absolutely dependent on it," Glick said. "With 300 new students, we would be able to eliminate the $6 million shortfall ... (500 new or retained students is) a goal, and it's a stretch goal. For this effort to work, the whole community has to engage in it."
Glick also offered the following information, most in response to questions during the Q&A that followed his budget explanation:
On deferring certain searches to help tighten the budget: "We have four dean searches and a provost search. We need to ask ourselves, ‘Could we live with deferring these searches for a year.' This causes me great reservation, and not because I don't have faith in the interims. It's just that we have too much history where we appoint interims and we say that they won't be considered permanent ... and then they are made permanent." Glick asked the audience for their feedback on how to handle the issue.
On fundraising efforts for the new math and science building: Glick noted that $18 million in funds are needed to match the state's contribution for construction. With $10 million already in hand from a donation from education philanthropists Bob and Jan Davidson, the University has raised an additional $6.3 million, including a $2 million challenge grant from the University Foundation. "We had hoped we would have a hole in the ground by now, but we don't," Glick said, adding that the University is "closing in on" the remaining $1.7 million needed.
On the use of soon-to-be-empty Getchell Library, which will see its occupants move to the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center next year: Glick said that Getchell's 170,000 gross square feet could be used for a "variety of services," from a writing center to women's center, to helping re-distribute staff and programming currently housed in the Thompson Building, as well as in Church Fine Arts. One thing that probably won't happen: "The cost of creating new offices in Getchell is prohibitive," Glick said. "We are now studying the cost of required code work to re-use the facility."
Regarding the concern that higher tuition would hurt the University's future efforts to recruit low-income students: "When we increased tuition by 40 percent at Arizona State (where Glick previously served as provost), we attracted double the number of low-income students," Glick said. He noted that the increased revenue from tuition helped create more scholarship opportunities for students facing financial difficulties. "There was actually more benefit for our minority students (due to the tuition increase)," Glick added.