WNC president has big plans for small classes

More than 200 Western Nevada College graduates walked May 22, 2023 with President Kyle Dalpe presenting degrees.

More than 200 Western Nevada College graduates walked May 22, 2023 with President Kyle Dalpe presenting degrees.
Photo by Jessica Garcia.

Western Nevada College offers something special, President Kyle Dalpe said, and if it’s not reaching populations in need of its smaller class sizes, it’s possible there’s something wrong.

“I just want to keep doing what we do every day on the ground,” Dalpe told the Appeal this month.

Dalpe, who was officially appointed as president to the college by the Nevada System of Higher Education in March, after serving as interim president, says the college will keep its eye on what the next biennium could look like for funding and its impact on WNC’s departments and plans. The state’s higher education budget recently closed, and Dalpe said the formula could hold “unintended consequences” for a small school like WNC heading into the final weeks of the session.

“We take every penny the state gives us and put it into programs that reach a lot of people,” he said.

Nearly all the college’s programs run small, and while Dalpe said its staff hadn’t completed its curricular review, it has scaled up its dual enrollment student populations, with high school populations reaching 36% of its head counts. However, with some of the school’s “older” populations at 22 years old or older working jobs, they are not training through the college, and this segment has dwindled, he said.

“So we are skewing more to high school (students),” he said. “But some are career and tech ed programs. Under the formula, we would get a high-cost program with a lower enrollment, and we can only put so many people in a robotics program.”

While WNC just completed a large part of its mission this week sending off its latest cohort of graduates into the world, the institution itself is keeping its eye on the legislative finish line in June and the working parts still moving this session, Dalpe said. For him, “June 6 can’t come fast enough.”

WNC’s future always has been bright because of the population it serves, he said. It helps hard workers who want a higher education suited to their financial need, tailored to the type of attention they’re seeking or given to the flexibility of their schedule.

“What we do is small class sizes,” he said. “It’s first point of access for people that wouldn’t go to higher education unless we existed. That’s very different populations (from universities) and there’s no carveout on our side, particularly at WNC, to say to run a small institution, you need a certain level of admin and small level of faculty people. Every school needs that, regardless of whether there’s 3,000 students or 10,000 students. You need a base level of business operations.

“It’s the fact that we will not put 400 people in a classroom, which would bring economy of scale where we can put some money in the bank, because that’s not the students we serve.”

The college still maintains a number of teaching vacancies, and to address this, Dalpe said the government has sought to attract more candidates through cost of living adjustments.

“(This) is long overdue from a fiscal management standpoint,” Dalpe said. “It would be better to have a slow progression of COLA similar to inflation where over five years it’s 2%, 2%, 2%, 2% rather than 10% all at once because of funding consideration.

“But we’re pleased with finally being able to catch everybody up, and we’ll see how it lands because it has to make into the final appropriation bill,” he said. “That in itself helps keep people.”

However, performing any full comprehensive salary placement requires adjusting every employee, which is timely, costly and tends to place employees lower than they expect.

WNC currently is running some mid-level searches now, and these have been fruitful so far, he said.

Dalpe also mentioned the college is examining an expansion and renovation for its Fallon campus to build up its nursing program, for which it secured federal funding, and would like to do the same in Douglas. The goal would be to drive more students into the college’s health care program.

“By having more seats in the two campuses for those seats, students who are driving can stay closer to home and it would free up seats in Carson,” he said. “We would actually increase naturally our nursing cohort by better utilizing our other two satellite campuses and create some more seats in Carson, and then we can look at doing a bachelor of science (program) in nursing.”

The expansion in Fallon would be expected to initiate next summer, with the Douglas portion to begin two to three years from now, but if WNC secured funding this session to pay for staffing, it would allow the administration to ramp up multiple cohorts quickly, he said.

Finally, the harsh winter left the campus beat up, he said. Fortunately, the state provided money for deferred maintenance to assist with parking lot needs and capital improvement considerations, he said — all things that will help to attract students back to the campus and to maximize use of the college’s current facilities.

“We need to start looking at things that have gone neglected for years,” he said.


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