Amid the most drastic budget cuts to hit higher education in nearly a decade, the Board of Regents will consider the creation of a new committee next week that will weigh deep, structural reductions and possible major changes to the state’s eight higher education institutions, according to a mission statement for the committee released Friday.
Those cuts would range from the consideration of “possible mergers, consolidations and/or closures” of certain colleges to the “elimination of certain programs at any of the NSHE institutions” to a review of employee pay.
Initial budget projections in the early days of the pandemic had prioritized the protection of existing jobs and programs, with much of the fiscal damage absorbed through the gutting of operating budgets, injection of one-time money from the CARES Act and the system’s rainy day fund, system-wide furloughs and increased student fees.
But as the pandemic has drawn on and legislators re-evaluated the budget during a special session this summer, those cuts have only grown deeper. Legislators would eventually tack on an additional $25 million cut to the 2021 fiscal year, raising the total amount cut to roughly $135 million.
That additional lost money has forced regents to revisit initial priorities and has for the first time raised the possibility of layoffs or program cuts.
Regents will vote on the creation of the new committee at their upcoming special meeting on Friday, Aug. 21.