LAS VEGAS - Only about a third of students who enroll in undergraduate classes at UNLV walk away with diplomas in a timely fashion.
Those 35 percent complete their degree requirements within six years, according to university statistics. That compares with 44 percent at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Low and untimely degree completion rates for UNLV and UNR contributed to Nevada getting an F grade in one of five categories in the first-of-its-kind Measuring Up 2000 study released last week by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, a nonpartisan think tank in San Jose, Calif.
Overall, Nevada received D-average grades on the report card, which took a look at degree completion rates, college participation, academic readiness, college affordability, and higher education benefits for each state.
Nevada higher education officials are studying why so many students are dropping out of college or taking eight or 10 years to earn a bachelor's degree.
Some of the possible reasons include college costs, family and work demands, a healthy economy with high-paying jobs that do not require college degrees, and frustrations over student-service inefficiencies in areas such as class scheduling.
UNLV is surveying nonreturning students to figure out if there are some things the university can do to boost completion rates.
Another major contributor to the F grade for degree completion in Nevada were government figures showing that only nine of every 100 students complete the requirements of degree or certificate programs at the state's public and private colleges and universities. That compares with 20 out of 100 in top-performing states.
''It is clear that we would like to improve those numbers,'' Jane Nichols, chancellor of the University and Community College System of Nevada, said Friday. ''They are very troubling, and even worse for minority students.''
According to the report, the only states that do worse than Nevada in the bachelor's degree completion category are Louisiana, Arkansas, Idaho, New Mexico, Utah and Montana.
The report uses five-year completion figures and notes that 39 percent of Nevada's university students graduate with a bachelor's degree within five years. Five-year figures for UNLV were unavailable.
Nichols said her office is studying the report and will consider its findings when writing goals aimed at improving Nevada's public higher education system.
''This is a real issue for us, and this is something we really need to and want to address,'' said Juanita Fain, a UNLV vice president who oversees the enrollment and retention of students. ''This has been an institutional concern for some time.''