Wixom argues "Certainly we have tough budget choices to make — but such policy discussions should begin with a correct statement of the facts." The problem is, he preceded this statement with less than honest facts about higher education in Nevada.
As Governor Sandoval stated, Nevada's higher education graduation rates are bad - in fact, embarrassingly poor. UNR's 8 year graduation rate is 54 percent - hardly stunning success. UNLV can't even get half their students to graduate on the Van Wilder plan.
First, lets understand what graduation rates are. Graduation rates typically look at a cohort of full-time, first-year students and track their progress over a period of 4, 6 and 8 years. Returning adult students and part-time students are excluded. Low-graduation rates occur at universities with high drop out rates, transfer out rates, and failing rates (though even the "tough" Ivy League schools have very high graduation rates).
Wixom seems to think it is unfair to count students who transfer out of the universities as part of the graduation rate. This is a silly complaint. When a student transfers they are signaling to the university that they can get a better education elsewhere or that the quality of the education is not worth the price.
Schools with lots of students leaving (ie transferring) are generally of low-quality. It makes no sense to exclude students transferring out - unless you want to obfuscate the truth.
Next, Wixom seems to think the budget cuts are entirely unfair. NSHE officials (most, but not all) don't seem to remember the massive budget increases they've seen in the last two decades.
Dr. Jay Greene of the University of Arkansas found that between 1993 and 2007, UNLV increased total spending by 140 percent (inflation adjusted) and UNR increased total spending by 69 percent. Adjusting for enrollment growth, UNLV had 59 percent more dollars and UNR had 21 percent more dollars per pupil in 2007 than in 1993 (and yes, that is adjusted for inflation too).
The growth had been so great, in fact, that the Delta Cost Project report "Trends in College Spending" ranked Nevada's system of higher education 15th best funded per-pupil in the nation (I do note that the bulk of this per-pupil money goes to UNR).
So what did UNLV and UNR do with all that money besides watch profoundly poor graduation rates continue to stagnate?
A: the schools built palatial buildings, expanded amenities for students, and hired legions of administrators. In fact, both UNR and UNLV grew their administrators (highly paid-non educators) faster than the student body. UNLV employs 1 adult for every 8 or 9 students while UNR employs one adult for every 5 students. They are certainly less bloated than many other universities, but they are considerably more bloated today than in 1993.
- cost $780 per square foot
Don't forget, despite the budget cuts, UNLV is also talking about building a new domed football stadium.
Along similar lines, UNLV College Republican President and Founder of Right Pride, Mark Ciavola, found that as the universities were whipping students into a frenzy about budget cuts they were also spending $240,000 to put on a concert.
Next, Wixom states that in order to make up for the budget cuts NSHE will have to raise tuition has high as 70 percent.
First, that amount is about the same as tuition increase students have already felt in the last decade. See UNLV and UNR's price increases between 2000 and 2010:
But second, why does NSHE think they even deserve to have all that money? Not only has Nevada's economy taken a pounding - 15 percent unemployment - but despite 2 very large record setting tax increases in a decade, the state and NSHE have not shown any ability to spend the resources in ways that positively impact students. In other words, they aren't deserving of the money.
Finally, as I've shown in a previous blog, higher education doesn't necessarily result in greater economic development. States with top 100 universities according to U.S. News and World Report averaged negative migration rates and have significantly higher unemployment rates than states without such top universities.
Higher education is expensive and because they use resources inefficiently (building student amenities and expanding administrative force) they are ineffective at their main function - education and research. In other words, higher education is currently a BAD INVESTMENT. Nevada may actually wreck or retard economic recover by taking tax dollars away from productive sectors of the economy to spend on public sectors that have shown an unwillingness to actually serve their customers (employees and rent-seeking special interest groups ARE NOT customers).
thus complicating my ability to graduate within 4 years
Final note, NSHE's poor performance also stems from the fact that they admit students who aren't ready for college - this means they share some of the blame with K-12 education. Taking a look at complicated graduation requirements could also help.
For example in my undergraduate days, Penn State required me to take x credits in "international competence" and x credits in "multicultural competence" then had illogical definitions for what classes counted for what. For example, my "History of Modern China" class did not count toward international competency, but the "History of Gay and Lesbians" could cover both my international and multicultural competency courses. Not only was this silly and illogical, it made graduating on-time that much more difficult (I managed to walk away with 2 degrees on-time by fighting the silliness).