UNLV’s top priority is faculty pay – so says NV Chancellor

Nevada Chancellor Dan Klaich agrees with UNLV President Neal Smastrek – restoring faculty pay back to the pre-5% cut level is the top priority of UNLV. 

     Forget the four-year graduation rates hovering around 15%, ignore the fact that staff are utilizing the food pantry to make ends meet and disregard that UNLV’s student government, CSUN, has received a record number of scholarship applications, including those for the Emergency Aid Scholarship, with more students applying this semester than have applied in every previous year since its inception. To Klaich, all of those issues take a back seat to restoring faculty pay to the pre cut levels.

     When asked why he agreed with President Smastrek and didn’t consider the aforementioned items more disconcerting, Klaich responded that well-paid faculty is the “backbone” of a “nationally competitive” university.

     Klaich was told of the record number of students applying for emergency aid scholarships and then asked, “If UNLV needs more money for faculty pay, what should be cut so that the tuition burden on students isn’t increased?” Klaich said that he’s “not for raising fees to pay faculty salaries” but said, “A part of the burden will be borne by student fees.” He reassured the students in the journalism class that he was speaking to that the students that will pay for faculty will be future students, not current ones.

     Although students have had tuition raised time and time again, Klaich said that he believes the tuition increases are fair and that all students should share the burden.

     When students in the journalism class asked what he thought about students who drop out of UNLV to accept high paying, low skill jobs on the Las Vegas Strip, Klaich quipped, “It’s great if you (students) want nowhere to go” in their careers.

     Klaich said that the university needs more students graduating, yet he couldn’t explain why UNLV doesn’t recruit students who take the ACT or SAT to attend the university. Instead, Klaich stressed a need to get rid of the high school proficiency exam in Nevada and that “we (UNLV) have to reach down to middle schools as to why college is important.”

     Students at UNLV face uncertainty with tuition increases that outpace the rate of inflation, courses that have fewer classes available and more grad students teaching courses. To add to the red tape of the university, UNLV doesn’t accept the same CLEP credit as the University of Nevada at Reno or certain classes at CSN, posing more headaches for transfer students.

     When asked why UNLV doesn’t accept CLEP credit for general education classes that UNR accepts, Chancellor Klaich stood up for students, saying, “We should do whatever we can do to get rid of that nonsense. There’s no excuse for that.”  

With so many groups vying for preferential treatment from the Board of Regents and the Chancellor, time will tell if students’ educations and their financial burden will be a factor in the upcoming funding formula meeting.

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Societal pressure may be to blame for UNLV’s low graduation rates

With one in four students dropping out of high school, miles of foreclosed homes and scarce job prospects, the city of Las Vegas has a full plate of problems to combat. For those students who make it past high school graduation and go on to UNLV, there are more challenges to face.

Currently, the four-year graduation rate at UNLV sits at a mere 14%. Compared to the national average of a 64% six-year graduation rate, UNLV’s six-year graduation rate doesn’t measure up at 39%.

Mark Riggins, a business and accounting teacher at the East Career and Technical Academy within the Clark County School District who also serves as the Director of the Educational Taskforce for the Clark County Republican Party, believes that societal pressure to go to college may be to blame for UNLV’s low graduation rates. “The idea that everyone should go to college is a disservice [to society] because we’re telling kids that you’re not important if you don’t go to a university.”

UNLV College Libertarians president, Lou Pombo mirrored Riggins sentiments, saying, that societies have many facets, “Everything can’t be an intellectual class, that’s impossible.” According to the Executive Director for the Nevada Youth Coalition, J.T. Creedon, “I never wanted to go to college. I wanted to be a musician. That’s not a typical university major and it’s better suited for a technical school. There’s definitely a stigma attached to some private technical schools, such as University of Phoenix, which may not be accepted by an employer or might not be accredited.”

Others argue that Las Vegas’ chief industry, the service industry, has more than a little to do with UNLV’s low graduation rates. Andria Coleman, a senator for the College of Liberal Arts at UNLV said, “It’s the reality of this town that you can make $90,000 [a year] parking cars or $3,000 a week stripping… even though this is a college town, you can make a whole lot more money without a degree.” Pombo agreed, saying, “You need some type of working-class and [students] realize that in this town, they can make more money being in the working class than with a degree.”

While some students skip college altogether, others are showing up for a year and leaving as evidenced by UNLV’s first-year retention rate of 76%. This is just slightly below the US average of 77% and much lower than the 84% that Nevada’s western neighbor, California, boasts.  Creedon explained, “There needs to be an emphasis on steering people in the right direction. Students just go to college and have no idea what they want to do with their life because everybody tells them that college is the way they should go.” “It’s a mistake to think every kid has to go to college… not everyone is cut out for it,” lamented Riggins.

Creedon was concerned about university staff not steering undecided students in the right direction. According to Creedon, “the advisors don’t help [incoming freshman] adequately with finding out which path to take. We need more front-end work to help these incoming students if we want them to stick around.”

UNLV Justice, Lance Arberry said that it’s important for UNLV to work to raise their graduation rates, saying, “Obviously, 14% is really bad for our university. It needs to change.” Creedon wants people to remember that while 14% is low and that a 100% graduation rate would be the ultimate goal, there are other factors to consider. “There are still a lot of people who want acting lessons or use pro tools but don’t enroll in a degree program but they reached their professional goal which wouldn’t be reflected in the graduation rate.”