Education officials ask lawmakers to increase medical school funding past governor's proposal

Nevada higher education officials on Tuesday asked legislators for three times more money than the governor has proposed to ramp up construction of a medical school in Las Vegas.

Nevada System of Higher Education officials presented their budget requests to a joint Assembly and Senate committee and asked for about $26 million for a medical school at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

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In his proposed budget, Gov. Brian Sandoval allocated around $8.3 million over two years for the medical school. UNLV School of Medicine Dean Barbara Atkinson told lawmakers that increasing funding to $26.7 million over two years would help the school attract more donors and help with the accreditation process so it could begin accepting students in 2017.

"We're looking for a base of hard money support," Atkinson said. "Donors are going to feel very unsettled."

System of Higher Education Chancellor Dan Klaich also asked lawmakers for "bridge funding" for a number of rural community colleges and research institutions.

Great Basin College President Mark Curtis told lawmakers that changes to the state's funding formula meant the Elko-based school would see a reduction of $2 million from state allocations, after already cutting around $4 million in the past five years. Curtis said a one-time funding increase would help the college transition to a lower budget allocation.

"We're kind of at a pinch point relative to the funding formula," he said. "We believe it will take us an additional year and a half or so without doing any serious damage to the college."

In total, Klaich said the higher education system is requesting around $8.65 million in transitional money for Great Basin College, Western Nevada college, the Desert Research Institute and Boyd School of Law at UNLV.