The new formula for dividing up state money among Nevada's college campuses would have cost Western Nevada College more than 30 percent of its already bare bones budget.
That's some $4.5 million out of $15 million in state funding.
Great Basin College also was hit by the changes adopted by a study committee Wednesday.
But WNC President Carol Lucey says a deal cut with the governor's office and southern campus presidents will spare the two small colleges most of that damage.
Under the so-called mitigation plan, the state will provide an additional $5 million each of the next two years, and the system will provide an equal amount from funds that were to go to the southern campuses.
WNC still loses money but not nearly as much since for the two small colleges, that makes up $10 million of the total $13 million they were going to lose.
Lucey said that reduces WNC's loss to $775,000 a year.
But Lucey said she still is worried because the mitigation money isn't permanent. It will go away in four years.
"This, after three or four years of steady cuts; we're operating bare bones," she said. "I don't have anything extra now."
WNC has managed to maintain a presence in Churchill and Douglas counties. Lucey said Fernley and Yerington still are offering classes only because of the generosity of officials in Fernley and former Lyon County Schools superintendent Caroline McIntosh. The deal with Lyon County allows the college to use space and equipment for free.
But Lucey said she doesn't know what will happen to those programs or the school in Carson City down the road if WNC gets hit with the full $4.5 million in cuts.
The new formulas were developed because of demands from southern lawmakers and college presidents who claim that the northern schools - especially the community colleges - have been getting more than their fair share of state dollars compared to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Henderson State College and College of Southern Nevada in Clark County.
Under the new formula, money will no longer be apportioned to schools based on enrollment in classes. Instead, it will be based on courses completed by students.
The plan also assigns different weights to courses based in part on the cost of providing those classes.
For example, it might cost more to provide an engineering class than an English class.
The new plan also considers the differences in teaching levels of classes between lower and upper level undergraduate offerings to master's and doctoral level courses, as well as remedial classes.
The plan still is far from finalized. It must be adopted by the Board of Regents and the governor, as well as the Legislature during the 2013 session and implemented in the 2014-15 budget.