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June 29, 2017

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Sandoval signs bills earmarking millions for UNLV, including med school

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YVONNE GONZALEZ

Gov. Brian Sandoval signs one of three bills benefiting higher education in front of a packed lobby at UNLV’s Greenspun Hall on Thursday, June 15, 2017.

Millions of dollars in funding are headed toward future engineering and medical school buildings at UNLV.

Gov. Brian Sandoval signed several bills in front of a packed Greenspun Hall lobby on Thursday. The new laws open up credits for certain military training, set up what Sandoval has called a “Top Gun” academy for teachers and appropriate funds for UNLV projects.

Senate Bill 553 sends $25 million toward construction of the School of Medicine, funding that matched a private donation, and puts $1.75 million toward planning for the university’s new building in the College of Engineering.

Sandoval said the state has invested millions in the medical school’s development so far. With the arrival of the first class next month, Sandoval said it’s time to go from the “theoretical to reality” when it comes to building the facility.

Two weeks before the 2017 legislative session ended, Sandoval said an anonymous donor reached out, willing to contribute $25 million for the medical school on the condition that the state would do the same. He said legislative leaders were immediately on board.

The medical school is “going to develop the doctors of the future,” Sandoval said, noting the state’s doctor shortage and the need to keep graduates in Nevada.

The state also has a growing need for engineers, he said.

“We’ve gone from a state that is producing engineers that most likely had to go out of state in order to get a position, and now the conversations that I’m getting are, we don’t have enough engineers,” he said. “We need to build a state-of-the-art engineering school here at UNLV” and in Reno.

Sandoval also signed Senate Bill 548, establishing the Nevada Institute on Teaching Educator Preparation, and Senate Bill 457, which makes it possible for student veterans to use certain military experience to gain college credit.

Students and school officials said the bills will benefit UNLV programs and help Nevada retain graduating engineers, teachers and doctors.

UNLV President Len Jessup said the medical school’s first class will have 60 students, with a goal of eventually training 120 future doctors. Community donations made it possible for those first students to all attend the medical school on scholarships.

Jessup said depending on plans and construction, this inaugural group of students may end up taking classes at the new facility.

“Launching this medical school is a key component of our top-tier strategic plan, and it’s critical for the community,” he said. “The community’s desperately in need of more doctors, and so for us, for that reason, it’s the most important thing that we’re working on.”

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