Wednesday, March 23, 2016 | 2 a.m.
A pair of Nevada lawmakers are preparing a case they believe would fix two issues hampering Nevada’s community colleges and universities.
Republican Assemblymen David Gardner and Stephen Silberkraus, who have met with a number of higher education leaders in recent weeks, say there is a chance something might be done about Nevada’s articulation process and funding formula during next year’s legislative session. Articulation is the process of transferring credits from one college to another.
Professors and administrators, especially those working in the state’s community colleges, complain that students transferring to UNLV or UNR don’t get credit for some classes they’ve taken at schools such as the College of Southern Nevada or Truckee Meadows Community College.
Articulation problems aren’t limited to Nevada, with many states drafting agreements designed to make the transferring credits easier. That includes Nevada legislators in 2005 passing a law to require the state’s four-year colleges to accept community college associate’s degree holders as juniors in a baccalaureate program. Still, it hasn’t completely fixed the problem.
Higher education leaders have discussed the issue for years, including as recently as January. A report of the findings is expected to be produced in June, but some feel the Nevada System of Higher Education is dragging its feet.
“When you go from junior high to high school, you don’t have to worry about it,” Gardner said. “The fact that we don’t have that in Nevada in 2016 seems like an oversight that should have been fixed.
“NSHE is a system,” he added. “So why the heck aren’t these institutions communicating with each other?”
Administrators are mulling a plan to automate the process by which colleges forward transcripts to other institutions, as well as eliminating the associated fee for students.
“Anything we can do to make the process quicker for students is a good thing,” said NSHE Chancellor Dan Klaich.
It’s likely legislators will also scrutinize the funding formula, which determines how much state funding each college gets every year. The formula was revised in recent years but still poses a problem for community colleges, whose enrollments are strongly tied to the strength of the economy.
Community colleges saw an increase in enrollment during the recession. But those numbers are dropping as the state recovers, or as one member of the CSN faculty senate told Gardner and Silberkraus during a meeting earlier this month, “whether it’s boom or bust, we lose.”
And every student who leaves is money lost at a time when Nevada needs skilled workers to support a growing tech sector led by companies like Switch, Tesla and Faraday Future.
It’s widely expected that higher education will take center stage in Carson City in 2017, similar to how last year’s session was largely focused on improving K-12 education.
Gardner and Silberkraus were early proponents of a plan to break up NSHE, but as some have cast doubt on the chances of such a drastic measure gaining support, the freshman legislators have turned their attention to addressing more concrete issues.
“There are still a lot of people who are going to need to be convinced,” Silberkraus said of plans to break up the system.