A decade from now, 17,000 graduating Nevada high school seniors will be eligible for Millennium Scholarships - one of the factors driving the need for a new state college at Henderson, a state educator said Wednesday.
Members of Western Nevada Community College faculty met Wednesday evening with Jane Nichols, vice chancellor of academic and student affairs for the University and Community College System of Nevada, to discuss the proposed state college in Henderson.
It was the last of eight presentations designed to get comments from the education community about the state college.
Nichols said the demand for the college is substantial.
With the Millennium Scholarships, Nichols said there will be an increasing number of Nevada graduates looking for higher education within Nevada. The scholarships are Gov. Kenny Guinn's plan to reward B-average Nevada high-school graduates with tuition payments to the state's colleges and universities.
This year she said around 6,400 students will be eligible for the scholarship. By 2010, she said, that number will have risen to 17,000.
In addition, projections by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education show Nevada leading the United States in the growth of high-school graduating classes through 2012. At a rate of 132 percent, Nevada's student population is growing twice as fast as the next-highest state, Arizona, at 62 percent.
That could mean an increase of 40,000 to 80,000 students in the next decade, most of whom would reside in Southern Nevada, according to information compiled by the city of Henderson in support of the college. Nevada had 51,572 students in 1998.
Nichols said those students deserve a choice as to where they will attend.
Now, Nevada has two universities and four community colleges. There are no state colleges.
Nichols said that other states with a comparative population have more options.
"Generally, there's more choice," she said.
However, WNCC President Carol Lucey said it is important that all colleges and universities should maintain a community-college atmosphere.
"The best four-year institutions are small, nurturing and developmental," she said.
Nichols said the state college would also be effective because it would offer baccalaureate degrees and be less expensive than a university.
"We have found in our studies that the primary reason why students don't go to college right out of high school is financial consideration," she said.
Financial consideration was also on the mind of Joe DeFlyer, WNCC's dean of arts and sciences. He asked if financing the state college would damage funding for the other educational institutions in Nevada.
Nichols assured him that it would not.
"The board is very committed that the other institutions will not be hurt," she said. "It's an economically smart thing to do for the system."
Nichols also stressed the idea that the college should be unique and not follow patterns already established.
"It should not be the University of Nevada, Las Vegas or the University of Nevada, Reno," she said. "It should be different."
Richard Kale, WNCC director of manufacturing and technology, said the curriculum should also be innovative.
"I would look at this curriculum not only in what are our current needs but what can we put in that system to attract people and businesses from outside the state," he said.
Micki Winsett-Gibbs, the director of research and creative services for strategic solutions, wrote down all suggestions, which will be compiled into a list of recommendations.