Friday, March 18, 2011

Can you give thirty-three minutes to save thirty-three programs?

On Monday, March 21, can you give thirty-three minutes to save thirty-three degree programs at UNLV that will have to be cut under Governor Sandoval's budget?

While over 1000 UNLV students take a bus all the way to Carson City on Monday, thousands of faculty, staff and supporters of UNLV can participate well. The Nevada Faculty Alliance is asking you to make 8 calls -- on your own time and your own phone -- to key legislators in Carson City in support of the thirty-three degree programs (listed here and here). These programs train thousands of students and contribute directly to the education and well-being of our state.

Sign up at or come to on Monday morning for instructions on whom to call and what to say.

Cuts alone are no solution. We need to let our legislators know that we expect more of them than just simple slogans. All NV legislators should come to the table prepared to find a balanced solution to the economic crisis. We have had enough of boom-and-bust cycles every few years that leave us vulnerable as a state to such crises as the one we are in now. We need broad-based, stable and fair revenue policy so that we can plan a secure future that offers real opportunities for ourselves and our children.

Higher Education has been part of the solution. We have cut administrative costs and faculty salaries and benefits (with more cuts to come); we have cut low-yield programs and with them over a 100 faculty lines and over 500 staff jobs statewide; we have increased class sizes and faculty course loads; students have paid significantly more in tuition (with more fee hikes likely to come).

Higher Education is how we get out of this crisis. Its how workers train and retrain for new jobs. Its how we diversify our economy from its current third-world model of resource extraction (ie mining) and tourism. Its how we reverse Nevada's currently hostile business environment which drives away innovative employers and talented workers. Its how we improve our quality of life and inform our citizenry that a better future is possible.

But according to 2010 census data, Nevada currently has the lowest rate of college participation (college degrees + those enrolled) in the country. We also have the lowest ratio of degree offerings in proportion to college-eligible population in the country. (Note that our neighbor, Arizona, has the highest ratio of degree programs to college-eligible population and that as a result, AZ will likely have twice as high a college participation rate as NV by 2020). Cutting more programs and raising tuition, in short, will make it harder to go to college for a state that desperately needs to improve its participation rate to compete in the 21st century.

Investment in higher education returns at a high rate. A recent study showed that for every public dollar invested in Nevada's colleges and universities, the state economy grew by $2.50. So by cutting public investment in higher education, we are leaving money on the table at a time we badly need to find better bets than what we've been laying our money on in the recent past -- mining, tourism and real estate development alone.

Can you give thirty-three minutes of your own phone time on Monday to help save 33 programs -- and everything they represent: our hope for a different, better future in this state.

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