Revamping NSHE is worth a look

A battle is brewing between a group of Republican lawmakers and regents from the Nevada System of Higher Education — the governing board for the state’s universities and community colleges — who don’t see eye-to-eye on the effectiveness of the current board.

One side are lawmakers who would prefer the NSHE to dissolve because supposedly the administration and regents are not doing a good job in oversight as Nevada has some of the lowest performance and graduation rates in the country.

Meanwhile, regents said they have heard the story before and have attempted to undertake self-assessment.

As with the K-12 reforms passed by the 2015 Legislature, any plan or proposals need a thorough vetting from both lawmakers and regents. At stake is the future of more than 100,000 students who attend either a four-year or two-year institution including the three campuses of Western Nevada College.

First and foremost, let’s see what a proposal to split the NSHE into two boards would look like. For the past two years during the Restore Our College Campus Committee meetings in Fallon, the topic of separate boards has been mentioned more than once. Naturally, any restructuring must focus on adequate funding and whether the community colleges would receive their fair share of the budget. While the universities in Reno and Las Vegas appear to receive most of their requests, the community colleges such as WNC and Great Basin must fight for every dollar.

Perhaps the time has come for a separate state board to oversee all the community colleges in Nevada because the needs at a two-year college are much different now than what is required at UNR or UNLV. With the current Board of Regents, we have many representatives who pour their undivided attention to these two universities and then treat the community colleges as fatherless stepchildren.

Sometimes, when looking inward, representatives don’t see the folly of their actions until the system is so broken not even life support will save it.

WNC, along with the state’s other two-year colleges, definitely lost a friend in former Regent Ron Knecht, now the state controller, who fought hard for funding and programs. Very rarely did Knecht miss ROCCC meetings when previous years looked bleak either before the regents or the Legislature. It is the dedication of local groups such as ROCCC that make regents look beyond the metropolitan areas.

What do we need to do, then?

Look at the options for governing the universities and community colleges.

Examine ways to improve student performance and graduation rates.

Fund and treat the community colleges better.

Improve the quality of a four-year degree. As with national rankings that show Nevada’s K-12 system near the bottom, it’s embarrassing for the state to have its college students struggling at the bottom of the heap.

LVN Editorials appear on Wednesdays.


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