CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - College and university students from around the state swarmed Nevada's capital city Monday, braving snow
and freezing temperatures to demonstrate against deep cuts proposed by Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval and urge state lawmakers to find funding for higher education.
The throngs of students - who came by busloads from Las Vegas, Elko and Reno - chanted, "No more cuts," and "Come out Brian," as they stood in front of the Capitol, hoping to take their message directly to the lawmakers and the governor.
The crowd was estimated at perhaps 1,500, which, according to former state archivist Guy Rocha would make it the largest political gathering in Carson City since Teddy Roosevelt's visit in 1903.
Many said the cuts would derail their education and delay their entry into the job force.
"I found out a lot of the core classes for nursing were disappearing and that really hit me hard because that's my major," said Western Nevada College student Courtney Gilbert. "UNR is offering a lot of the classes I need, but I don't have the money for UNR."
'I don't have a job and my family doesn't have the money for college," said Pahrump resident and Great Basin College freshman Nichole Bosek. "College was my hope. If the Pell grant isn't enough to cover that or if the Pell grant disappears I couldn't afford to go. That would be it for me."
College of Southern Nevada freshman "Kiha" Akui is worried upper classmen will get preference for classes slowing his education and he says the governor and some lawmakers' approach to the education budget is discouraging.
"It's like they don't expect anything from Nevada youth other than can you deal cards or fix a slot machine. It's disrespectful."
Sandoval sent a tweet welcoming the students to Carson City. "I'm glad you're participating in the political process," he posted on Twitter.
A spokeswoman says the governor did meet with a few student representatives later in the day.
Fifteen buses traveled from Las Vegas on Sunday night for the eight-hour trip. Others came from Reno, Great Basin College in Reno and Western Nevada College in Carson City.
Sandoval has proposed cutting state support for higher education by $162 million over the next two years. Officials with the Nevada System of Higher Education said that will mean elimination of programs, layoffs and hefty tuition increases for students.
The cuts in state support amount to 16 percent for the upcoming year, and nearly 30 percent the following year, when other lost funding such as federal stimulus money is factored.
Students who crowded a hearing room Monday groaned when Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-North Las Vegas, told them the
state's general fund contributions to the prison system would increase, while funds to higher education were falling.
“Today’s rally reminds us that the decisions we make on the budget have very real consequences for years to come,” said Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford. “As legislators, it is our job is to position Nevada for future success. These students are simply asking for the chance to succeed, but these cuts will make their goals more difficult to reach.”
College of Southern Nevada student Lydia Scherr criticized a streetscape project in the works, telling legislators that the state needed academic programs more than $100,000 of rocks.
"If hope were a person," Scherr said, "many of you would be locked up for murder."
Student body leaders called for bipartisan talks to raise taxes on businesses and mining. Some acknowledged the concerns of legislators who have slammed the higher education system for its low graduation rate.
"I'm not asking you to blindly write a check to NSHE. It's not a perfect system," said University of Nevada, Reno student Brandon Bishop. "But we can work together to fix it."
A university spokeswoman noted the rally was organized by students. The bus transportation that brought many was paid for out of fees that fund student government and activities.
Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.