Editorial: Another UNR pipe dream for expansion | NevadaAppeal.com

Editorial: Another UNR pipe dream for expansion

Someone is inhaling at the University of Nevada, Reno, and it isn’t fresh air.

We can certainly say that UNR president Marc Johnson looks after his fiefdom on the hill that keeps watch on “The Biggest Little City in the World,” a title that may suit the university better in four years if the college boss gets his way with more staffing.

In four years, Johnson wants 400 additional faculty members to free up professors who can spend more research time. He also wants the school to be on par with other research programs at the University of Utah, New Mexico State and Washington State.

How do we fund this wish list?

We keep expanding the campus by bringing in more students, which ultimately requires more multi-million dollar buildings for classrooms and housing, many of them funded courtesy of Nevada residents. Johnson figures more students enrolling at the University of Nevada will fund 300 additional positions, and the Legislature will be asked by the Board of Regents next year to fund the remaining 100 openings.

Based on national and Nevada averages, the typical UNR assistant professor’s salary is $85,828 with the range from $58,722 to $144,639, not including benefits for retirement, insurance, etc. The price tag for salaries comes in at $8.5 million, courtesy of Nevada taxpayers. If Johnson succeeds with this plan, will his counterpart at UNLV do the same and offer to help turn the screw on those same taxpayers?

Both the Board of Regents and the Legislature must scrutinize this proposal by asking themselves if this expansion plan comes at another cost to educational institutions such as Western Nevada and Great Basin colleges, Truckee Meadows Community College and the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension — all who have dearly paid the sacrifice in funding because of money woes. While the two major universities developed a swagger after the last funding cycle, the two-year colleges apparently will remain the state’s stepchildren if the Legislature grants Johnson’s request.

The wish list for two-year and specialized education is critical to the state’s business growth:

The explosion of new businesses in the state calls for more technical jobs than white-collar positions.

Both the Regents and Legislature must eyeball the immediate and future jobs and allow two-year colleges to expand their programs to meet the state’s needs at a fraction of the price. The two-year colleges should not be forced to grovel for bridge funding to survive because a president wants to grow his university.

Funding severely reduced from Cooperative Extension over the past six years must be restored to pre-recession levels to meet the needs of one of Nevada’s largest industries.

The current proposal for UNR should be treated as a pipe dream until the Regents and state legislators realize there is more to state education than Reno and Las Vegas.

Editorials appear on Wednesdays in the Lahontan Valley News