The reason for cuts to faculty and staff, as you probably could guess, is the economy. As tax revenues took a dive along with the tourism and real estate markets, budget cuts were passed on to state agencies. UNLV's state funding was slashed by $25 million, or 8 percent, last year. And the budget for the next two years likewise looks challenging.
More than 75 percent of state funds go toward employee salaries and benefits, so absorbing cuts in the multimillions is impossible without affecting the employment rolls. Last year UNLV offered buy-outs to longtime employees and did not renew the contracts of nearly 100 employees. Scheduled merit raises for the remaining employees were delayed for six months. And administrators implemented a hiring freeze. Only positions deemed critical, such as those tied to compliance, have been filled.
How's all this affecting the students? With fewer instructors, students found that getting into classes at the preferred time became more difficult. Their class size also increased, at least to the extent possible given the occupancy limits of lecture halls. So far, students' progress toward their degree goals has been minimally affected. Outside the classroom, the processing times for paperwork got a little longer and things like trash pickups and office hours were reduced.
Some of the savings measures were no-brainers -- steps UNLV would have taken regardless of budget cuts. For example, UNLV took advantage of the Las Vegas Valley Water District's rebates to pay for water-smart landscaping, reducing water use by 45 percent. Crews just started another turf-reduction project to lower utility costs even more. And thanks to new energy-saving systems, electricity and natural gas consumption have decreased despite growth in the campus population.
Those moneywise measures brought top honors from the Nevada Taxpayers Association. The independent watchdog group awarded the facilities management department the 2009 Cashman Good Government Award for its efficient use of state funds.
While happy that the award recognizes his division's efforts, Gerry Bomotti, executive vice president for business and finance, notes that some of the measures -- delaying building maintenance and computer replacements, for example -- cannot be sustained.
UNLV is now at an all-time low in the percentage of expenditures that goes toward institutional support. This standard measure of overhead-type expenses has been cut in half since 2000. "We are at a rate well below other regional research universities, and likely too low to provide required support for students and faculty," Bomotti says. "There's just not much more that can be cut from the operations side."
UNLV's freshman enrollment is the largest and most diverse, and they got in under tougher admissions standards. So far administrators do not foresee a threat to the value of their future degrees. Last year, in collaboration with area leaders, UNLV developed a strategic plan to prune back the explosive growth of the previous decade. It clarifies the areas that the university must focus on to best serve Southern Nevada.
"The nature of this kind of short-term crisis is that it forces you to fully understand what areas are most vital and must be protected as well as what areas hold the most promise and may require investments even during tough economic times. That's true on campus and in our community," President David B. Ashley says. "Southern Nevada will continue to need UNLV -- the only public university in the region -- but our growth will continue as a more mature operation advancing in very focused ways."
[as a Percent of Total Expenditures]
- 1999: 12.4%
- 2000: 11.9%
- 2001: 11.3%
- 2002: 9.7%
- 2003: 8.7%
- 2004: 7.5%
- 2005: 7.6%
- 2006: 7.2%
- 2007: 6.3%
- 2008: 5.7%
*Day-to-day operating expenses including general administration, central executive-level management, legal operations, space management, human resources, purchasing, public relations, and development.
- 14.9 percent of positions unfilled or eliminated at UNLV this spring compared to last, including 97 faculty and 267 staff positions
- 25 percent cut to part-time instructor budget
- 1,000 fewer class sections offered this academic year
- $1.5 million saved by eliminating or combining a number of dean, vice president, and associate vice president positions
- $89 million in budget reductions, cost-savings programs, and deferred expenses over the last few years -- about 30 percent of the state budget for UNLV
- 45 million gallons of water conserved annually by turf-reduction projects, reducing utility costs by about $135,000 a year
- 38 percent reduction in electricity and natural gas usage per square foot since 2000
- $1 million saved by reducing janitorial services
- 28,605 total students enrolled, up 2.5 percent over the last two years
- 9.3 percent growth in freshman enrollment in fall '08 over '07
- 36.6 percent minority enrollment, up from less than 23 percent in 2000
- 66.1 percent projected increase in Nevada's high school graduates by 2018. The national average will be a modest 7.9 percent