Members of the Restore Our College Campus Committee expressed disappointment at its Wednesday meeting that the biennium budget for Western Nevada College and Great Basin College in Elko does not contain additional money to be used as bridge funding.
Because of a new funding formula implemented several years ago, the two education institutions received almost $5 million in bridge funding, which restored money the community colleges lost because of allocations and the elimination of a rural factor that figured in part-time faculty to student enrollment.
With new industries coming to Northern Nevada, ROCCC Chairman Bob Clifford said he was surprised the governor axed the bridge funding from his education budget.
“The workforce training could be helpful,” Clifford said, citing the future needs of Tesla Motors and Nevada Copper.
WNC President Chet Burton said only two of four enhancements survived, neither one of them affecting WNC or GBC. He said the two enhancements going forward in the higher education budget are $3 million for the law school, which suffered a substantial enrollment drop, and $46 million for a medical school, both at UNLV.
Burton said the Legislative Counsel Bureau has asked WNC about bridge funding. The first hearing on the budget is Feb. 25 in Carson City.
What worries Burton, though, may be the reduction of programs if bridge funding is not restored. The college, in collaboration with area high schools, has begun a Jump Start program that allows high school juniors and seniors to take lower division college classes and earn credit. The program began with 200 students, and the completion rate is 90 percent, more than 20 percent higher than the general student enrollment in similar courses.
“The program has been very successful, and I can see expansion,” Burton said.
He said Oasis Academy would like its junior and seniors to be enrolled in the Jump Start program next school year.
According to Burton, Jump Start is modeled after a successful program that requires college faculty to teach each class with the assistance of two tutors.
If a student takes advantage of many course offerings, Burton said students could obtain 18 to 24 lower division credits before they go on to a four-year university.
The committee discusses ways to contact legislative committees and also have the WNC Advisory Committee take an active role.
“If we lose the bridge money, it will be impossible to keep the current programs,” Burton pointed out.” Then it becomes survival.”
Clifford said letters should be sent from residents to Pat Hickey of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee and Ben Kieckhefer, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
Burton is banking on the Advisory Board to look at current and future funding. Out of 14 members on the board, four come from Fallon.
The committee also discussed the nursing program and if it will ever return to Fallon. Originally, the program was supported — in part — by Banner Churchill Community Hospital, but resources dried up. Burton said the emphasis of health classes in Fallon would focus on the certified nursing assistant and medical assistant programs.
“Another factor affecting the nursing program are student clinicals and the number of hours students must spend at a hospital,” said Sherry Black, WNC Fallon’s director.
Black said students, though, may complete their prerequisite classes in Fallon and then relocate to Carson City.
The other problem with the program is attracting nurses with master’s degrees and experience. Burton said nurses earn more in the private sector.
“We need to get substantial funding from outside sources,” Clifford said, referring to classes and the nursing shortage.
Currently, 52 students have enrolled in the nursing program at the Carson City program. Burton said two to three students apply for every slot.
“We’re not folding up the tent with these challenges,” Burton said.