Friday, Sept. 14, 2012 | 6:49 p.m.
The state’s fastest-growing college is looking to expand as it celebrates its 10th anniversary this fall, Nevada State College president Bart Patterson said this week.
In his first state of the campus speech on Thursday, Patterson laid out his vision for the four-year college in Henderson, which includes building out the campus and meeting the needs of a growing student population.
“We get to celebrate a remarkable decade while being poised to accelerate to the next level and transform the college into the comprehensive state college that has always been envisioned,” Patterson said. “NSC will be the school of choice to meet the dreams of another decade of trained professionals that will live in Nevada, work here and building the quality of life here.”
NSC welcome more than 3,330 students this fall, about a 4 percent increase from a year ago, Patterson said. The college also graduated more than 300 students last spring, a record number for the fledgling school that was given regional accreditation last year.
Although NSC started as a teachers college, it has shifted its mission toward becoming an “access institution” to help give first-generation, low-income and disadvantaged students for a four-year college education.
NSC is working on developing new programs, services and technologies to increase its student retention and graduation rates, which are among the lowest in the state.
NSC is developing a new curriculum – dubbed “supercourses” – to improve student achievement. Instead of just offering lectures, these core courses will use engaging learning materials and videos, activities and assessments to challenge students in developing fields such as biology, business and digital media, Patterson said.
Furthermore, the college is redesigning its remedial math courses, teaching difficult math concepts in smaller five-week chunks instead of 15-week-long semester classes. To help improve retention in remedial math classes, NSC will reward improving students with bookstore vouchers.
With many first-time college students, NSC is also expanding its academic advising center, offering daily walk-in office hours. The college also is working to incorporate technologies – such as interactive touch-screens, recording software and a synthetic cadaver – to engage students and pave the way for online education.
However, in the wake of the recession, expansion has proven difficult for the college. Over the past five years, NSC experienced a record 45 percent increase in its student enrollment, but suffered a 35 percent decline in state funding.
“No college has been more impacted by declining state budgets,” Patterson said. However, “NSC continues to grow this year despite a reduced budget.”
A new higher education funding formula may inject $2 million more in state funding to the college and NSC is looking to apply for more federal grants, Patterson said.
NSC has been designated as a “Minority Serving Institution” and is on its way toward becoming a “Hispanic Serving Institution,” which allows the college to apply for federal grants designed to aid schools with a high minority population. Minority students make up the majority of the student body, with about 20 percent of the students identified as Hispanic.
The additional funding will pave the way for new capital projects on campus, helping to bridge a five-mile distance between its current buildings, Patterson said. NSC is planning to construct two new facilities, including a nursing and science building, and a student center and administrative building.
NSC is expected to present a proposal before the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents in late November to kickstart the project.
“It is time for NSC to lay down its stake and expand the foundation of our college campus,” Patterson said. “A unified campus will allow for better customer service, stronger working collaborations … and give NSC a more visible identify in the Las Vegas Valley.”