Happy Talk on the Education Front

This just in: Higher education in Nevada is a sinking ship.

It’s not really breaking news for those of us who live here that the economy has not been kind to UNLV, UNR, the College of Southern Nevada et. al. But in an Aug. 28 article titled “In Nevada, Harsh Reality Hits Higher Education,” The Chronicle of Higher Education put all the pieces together. That hot wind you felt yesterday afternoon? The collective sigh of academics across the country muttering, “Glad I’m not there.”

While the article begins with the somewhat dubious technique of viewing the precarious situation of higher ed in Nevada through the lens of one Francisco Hernandez, a hapless UNR student who has had to spend his post-diploma nest egg on tuition increases, it gets much better—i.e. worse—from there. Unless you subscribe to the Chronicle you’ll have to scale a pay wall to read the whole thing online, so here are a few highlights:

  • Lynn Comella, an UNLV assistant professor of women’s studies, tells the Chronicle that every faculty member she knows who is younger than 50 is looking for a job outside the state.
  • UNLV president Neal Smatresk says he’s eliminated 400 positions in three years, 20 percent of his workforce. The cuts have created “almost like a slow-moving post-traumatic-stress disorder,” Smatresk tells the Chronicle.
  • While both Arizona and Florida were just as gobsmacked by the recession as Nevada, those states have responded by increasing capacity at colleges instead of hacking it to bits.
  • Among cities of more than 1 million residents, Las Vegas has the second-lowest percentage of bachelor-degree holding adults in the nation. Thank god for Riverside, Calif.

And it goes on, noting along the way the nascent efforts to fund research and encourage more cooperation with business ventures. But here’s the scariest point in the whole piece: Rebuilding the system will require strong leadership from our lawmakers. If so, we’re doomed.