University Regents are elected to set policy for Nevada’s system of higher education and hire the chancellor. Yesterday, they heard that for the first time in a long time, the amount of financial assistance given to students was lower than the year before.
Some people knew this was coming as early as the year 2001. By then, Governor Guinn had seen the first numbers on his Millennium Scholarship program. It was pretty easy, then, to extrapolate that first year’s results out into the future and reach the conclusion that the program at capacity would spend about twice its earmarked revenue.
Because it was offered to recent high school graduates, it ramped up slowly, adding one new group of recent grads per year. Thus, there was plenty of advance warning that the program was not sustainable.
The decision was made by the administration to not modify the program – say, by only offering it to our best and brightest students – and instead let it go broke shortly after Governor Guinn’s 2004 re-election.
The Governor and Lieutenant Governor didn’t allow the Legislature and press to see the program’s finances until the 2005 session. That year, the legislature changed the program around to reduce the costs, as well as appropriated tens of millions in additional taxes to prop it up. Today, the Millenium pays for about half of a UNR or UNLV student’s costs, and no longer serves “to keep our best and brightest from leaving the state for their college education.”