ELKO — Lately, higher education in the state is under a lot of pressure to make due with less. Budgets, programs, faculty size, employee benefits, they’ve all shrunk. Meanwhile, northeastern Nevada’s mining industry is expanding and in need of skilled workers, which Great Basin College can provide. This catch-22 was brought up at an interactive media town hall meeting Thursday evening hosted by Jason Geddes and Kevin Page, the chairman and vice chairman of the Board of Regents. “The demand for our students has increased significantly. We’re trying to expand our program and yet, we have no budget to do that,” Bret Murphy, dean of applied sciences at GBC, said at the meeting. “Our technical programs teach these skills to students to make them employable,” Murphy said in an interview on Friday. “But, we can’t expand to the level they need.” GBC offers certified degrees in diesel, industrial millwright, welding, electrical, and instrumentation programs. “(We’re) trying to deliver what we’ve always delivered, excellent programs, and students are employable and they get good paying jobs,” said Murphy. “I pride myself on our programs. These students are able to go out and make a living for themselves and their families, and we teach them to do that. I think that’s awesome, but in order for me to do that and continue doing that with any kind of quality. It’s tough.” The demands of simultaneously trying to meet the needs of the local economy, and supporting programs with a diminishing budget, all while keeping faculty moral up is challenging. “It’s a hostile situation for the college,” said Murphy. GBC is looking to expand its diesel program. Currently, the school offers two sections of the class and will soon be adding a third. Money is even available to hire an instructor, but “we don’t have enough money in increased budget to run the program … We had two sections now, and we’ll have three with the same budget, ” Murphy said. Adding to the problem of trying to meet local industries’ needs, retaining faculty to teach students the necessary skills has compounded the problem. The diesel program is currently looking to fill two open positions. Murphy said he recently lost an instructor because the benefits package no longer provided the necessary care for the instructor’s family’s medical needs. “Because of our insurance that we have, it was a big factor (in the instructor leaving),” Murphy said. Hiring replacement instructors has been challenging for GBC because candidates seeking teaching jobs have the exact qualifications the mines are also seeking in a potential hire. The mines have leverage with significantly better salary and benefit packages. “As I sit down with these candidates and talk with them about placing them on the salary schedule and then tell them … you have to take a 4.6 percent cut, and then I explain the benefits to them, and they say the benefit package is not very good. I have a hard time defending that,” Murphy said at the town hall meeting. The purpose of the town hall meeting was to collect input from the state’s colleges that could help shape future Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents agendas. Geddes addressed Murphy’s concern, saying presidents can hire outside of the salary range, and every board meeting regents approve such salaries based on certain criteria of critical need. Murphy said on Friday hiring above the salary scale was a possible solution for filling the positions, but it certainly wouldn’t be possible to increase every salary and it would negatively affect current employees who remain stuck in the salary scale with a possible raise being six years down the road. “Yeah I could go above the scale, but now I’m going to pay this new person more than these (other instructors). How does it make the rest of the faculty feel?” he said. Other concerns brought up during the town hall meeting dealt with the funding formula the Nevada System of Higher Education is looking at revising, consolidating the college’s satellite sites and an overall look at the employee benefits package.