- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 28, 2014

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - Nevada’s community colleges were under the microscope Tuesday as a legislative committee began a yearlong study on how they should be funded and managed.

SB391 approved by the 2013 Legislature directed an interim study focusing on whether community colleges should remain under the Nevada System of Higher Education or be overseen separately

The bill initially called for putting them under the authority of the Nevada Department of Education as an extension of the state’s K-12 system. Instead, the measure was amended to establish a study committee, which held its first meeting Tuesday.

Among other things, the committee will review and make recommendations on how community colleges can better adapt to the needs of businesses on a regional basis to work hand-in-hand with economic development efforts.

A new funding formula for Nevada’s colleges and university approved by lawmakers last year brought a major shift in how campuses receive state dollars. It uses a formula based on courses completed, rather than enrollment, and upper-level classes are given more weight because they cost more for institutions to offer.

The effect was a shift in money going from northern Nevada to schools in southern Nevada.

Legislators were in agreement Tuesday that a top-to-bottom review of the community college system was overdue.

“We need to make sure students have hands-on learning from the get-go,” said state Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, a main sponsor of the bill.

“I think it’s high time we have this discussion,” said Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas. “We’ve been cobbling together what we think works.”

Other committee members said the state’s community colleges play a critical role in providing training for industry-specific skills, offering certificate programs as well as associate degrees.

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