But possible budget cuts, which may lead to tuition increases of up to 300 percent, could devastate Marshall financially.
Marshall has been attending the university since 2005 and has another five years to complete a graduate program in cell and microbiology. The long-term effect of paying higher tuition over that time motivated Marshall to attend a letter-writing forum at UNR on Tuesday.
"I'm concerned with everything about this budget cut," Marshall said. "It's important for a university to have diversity, with people studying different majors. I'm worried that instead of cutting entire programs, they will only have minimal things offered in every program and increase tuition to cover the budget deficit."
The budget cut that Marshall referred to is the cut to higher education that has been proposed by Gov. Jim Gibbons
"Jim Gibbons has called for a drastic reduction in the general fund appropriations for higher education," Graduate Student Association President Brithany Thomson said. "In fiscal year 2008, the university's entire budget was $567 million (which includes all of the money collected from tuition) and Gibbons has proposed to cut $76,411,228 from the budget this year. His recommended appropriations for UNR will be decreased by a total of nearly 35 percent if the budget is approved."
The proposed cut has instigated scrutiny of the university's recent spending. Thomson explained that there has been confusion among students about why new buildings were being constructed if there was not enough money in the budget.
"State funding for the university is broken up into two separate categories: restricted and unrestricted," Thomson said. "The construction of the new buildings was paid for by restricted funds. The money in this category is restricted to certain projects like expansion of the university through more building."
Tuesday’s forum was held in hopes of encouraging students to write their legislators regarding the proposed higher education cut since the legislative session began on Monday.
"Legislators don't like to fight for an issue that they don't know where people, mostly their constituents, stand," said Washoe County School District trustee Scott Kelley, who spoke at the forum. "That's why it's important for people to contact the legislators in their districts. They need to know what their constituents think."
Kelley provided recommendations for how to write an effective letter, emphasizing the importance of communicating with legislators.
"There is more than one way to contact your representatives," Kelley said. "You can call them and speak over the phone, you can set up an appointment to speak with them in private, you can write them a letter or you can even contact many of them on Facebook.
"This is a time for ideas," Kelley added. "When you contact your legislature, you can provide them with ideas about how to change how the budget in appropriated. For example, one solution would be to revise a law from almost 150 years ago that was originally intended to protect mining companies, but that now enables them to have writeoffs that allow them to make much more than might be necessary."
Concerned with the low turnout to the forum, UNR faculty member Howard Rosenberg said, "This is why it's important for every one of you to go out and talk to your friends about what's going on. This is something that concerns every one of you, and every student should be researching ideas that would limit the budget cut and talking to the legislators.
"I went to Harvard University and you guys get just as good of an education here," Rosenberg added. "But, if UNR lost any of its constituent colleges, there wouldn't be an education. There would only be indoctrination."
Despite the fact that the forum was not as well attended as the rally held in Carson City at the end of January, students who attended the forum left with a wealth of letter-writing advice and, for students like Marshall, a sense of purpose.
"I haven't written to anyone yet, which is why I came to this today," Marshall said. "I still need to finish the program I'm in and I don't want to see anything happen to this university that will change that. Now that I know who to contact, I can tell them what I think."