Sunday, Aug. 23, 2009 | 2 a.m.
In August, Brian Greenspun turns over his Where I Stand column to guest writers. Today’s columnist is Dan Klaich, chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education.
Education changes lives.
I can say it no more clearly. Education has the power to rewrite one’s future and build a foundation for the success of future generations.
I am where I am today because my family valued education. My father pulled himself out of the copper mines of northeast Nevada, became a veterinarian and sent my brother, sister and me to college. Like many Nevadans, my mother and father were the first in their families to go to college. My father took advantage of an affordable and accessible public education that forever changed his life and the lives of his children and grandchildren.
We know beyond dispute that with more education, personal income rises. A more educated population has a greater life expectancy, fewer health problems, is more active in civic affairs, saves more and has a higher employment level.
Sadly, the reverse is also true. A less educated population will have a higher crime rate, more demands on social services and more difficulty in adapting to Nevada’s rapidly changing workforce demands.
These are not my opinions — they are facts.
In addition, we know that the face of our state is changing. Nevada is on the verge of being a “minority majority” state (by 2026, approximately 50 percent of our state’s population will be from a minority group). In many cases, the new minorities in our state are the generation that will be asked to repeat my father’s story as the first in their families to attend college.
We are at a crossroads in Nevada. To successfully navigate these daunting challenges, I ask for your support in two areas:
First, invest in Nevada’s future and invest in education. I don’t like taxes. I also don’t like public agencies spending my money with no improvement to my family’s and community’s quality of life. If you do not want to pay high taxes, then an excellent college and university system is your only option.
Prisons, welfare, Medicaid, social services and police services are expensive. To continue as a state investing primarily in these areas guarantees your taxes will get higher and higher. Education is cheap by comparison and it gives back both short-term and long-term benefits. College graduates contribute to the tax base and build a better state.
You do not want to be told that your sons and daughters cannot go to college because there is no money to support your public institutions or that classes are full, simply because Nevadans don’t have the will to make that initial investment necessary to improve the state’s future, particularly over the next 10 years. Such an investment is guaranteed to bring businesses that will offer high wages and allow your children and grandchildren to contribute back to the state. That is the tax base you want for Nevada if you want to avoid high taxes.
Second, demand to know how your tax dollars are spent. You are entitled to a fair and understandable return on your investment. As chancellor, I have a responsibility to let you know exactly what you are getting for your tax dollars invested in our colleges and universities. I also have a responsibility to help figure out how to spend these dollars efficiently and effectively so educated graduates make Nevadans’ lives better. If ever there was a time to look inward at how we do business in higher education, this time of economic crisis is it, and I pledge to do that.
In this time of recession, we are all worried about whether we will have the resources we need in the days to come. We must make tough choices, quit living just for today and plan for tomorrow.
Nevada’s plan for tomorrow must be built on your investment in education for our future so that my story will be the story for all our families.