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Do more with less
by Jessica Carner
Mar 10, 2011 | 2135 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune/Jessica Carner - Members of the Nevada System of HIgher Education board of regents are sworn in before Thursday’s meeting at Western Nevada College in Carson City.
Tribune/Jessica Carner - Members of the Nevada System of HIgher Education board of regents are sworn in before Thursday’s meeting at Western Nevada College in Carson City.
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CARSON CITY — At the same time Nevada’s universities are being forced to make severe cuts to degree programs, faculty and staff, Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki is calling upon higher education to play a major role in the economic diversification and development of the state.

Krolicki, along with the executive director of the Nevada Commission on Economic Development (NCED), Michael Skaggs, went before the Nevada System of Higher Education’s Board of Regents on Thursday in Carson City to talk about the role of the state’s higher education system as it relates to economic development initiatives.

“This is about business, academia and government coming together,” Krolicki said. “Coordination will make sure our energies are focused.”

With the dismal state of the Nevada economy, everyone is focused on development, Krolicki said. He and Skaggs believe the state’s university brain trusts are the key to development and diversification of the economy.

“Unless we use the brain cells in this state to advance the economy,” Skaggs said, “we aren’t going anywhere.”

While Krolicki said he understands the budgetary challenges the higher education system is facing, he believes it can work with businesses and government agencies to improve Nevada.

“I’ve read some very powerful letters from the university presidents the last few days,” Krolicki said. “I’m not here to solve the budget, but to talk about what we can do.

“This is the hand we have been dealt, to use a Nevada term, and we will make it work,” he added.

Krolicki said Nevada could concentrate on several areas as it works to diversify the economy, and the higher education system can play a major role in:

• Technology commercialization: Concentrating more on applied research and transforming that into jobs.

• Film and digital media production: Nevada is the “entertainment capital of the world,” Krolicki said, and the state should use that to its advantage, especially in the digital arena.

• International business development: Millions of visitors come to Nevada each year from all over the world and grabbing their attention while they are in the state is the key to getting businesses to relocate to the state. “We entertain a lot of people,” Krolicki said. “Let’s capture them while they are here.”

• Renewable energy: “Nevada’s next motherload is renewable energy,” Krolicki said. The renewable energy industry will create jobs in manufacturing, research and development, he said.

Developing and diversifying the medical industry and research related to national defense also are areas the higher education system can play a part in, Krolicki said.

Regent Andrea Anderson said she agreed the higher education system should partner with other entities to improve Nevada’s economy.

“You really do need a strong partnership with education,” Anderson told Krolicki.

Regent Cedric Crear echoed her sentiments and said he was happy to hear from a government leader who values education.

“It’s refreshing to hear someone talk about education and understanding the return of investment in education,” Crear said.

Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposed state budget would slash $162 million in funding for the university system, and some regents expressed concern that Krolicki’s remarks were too optimistic in light of this fact.

“It all sounds great,” Regent Kevin Page said. “But talk is cheap. If you cut $160 million to higher education, you’re going to lose … and never recover.”

The Nevada Department of Taxation reported on Thursday that net proceeds from mining taxes surpassed estimates by $10 million. Sandoval said he would direct these new funds be set aside for education, but it is unclear if they will be used to offset cuts to the university system.

Board Chairman James Dean Leavitt challenged Krolicki to stand behind higher education as the 2011 legislative session moves forward.

“I’m challenging you to be one of the leaders,” Leavitt said. “We’ve never been adequately funded, even when times were good. You can’t talk about diversification without the adequate funding in place.”

Earlier in the day Thursday, the board of regents voted to eliminate programs at the University of Nevada, Reno and at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

At UNR, the Master of Science and doctorate in geochemistry degree program was eliminated, along with the Master of Arts degree for the teaching English. Each program currently has just one student, according to Provost Marc Johnson. Those students will be able to finish their degrees.

The board voted to eliminate the following at UNLV: the Department of Professional Studies within the School of Dental Medicine; the Master of Education in physical education; bachelor and master of science in physical education; bachelor of science in workforce education; educational specialist in special education; and Master of Science and Doctor of Education in special education. UNLV Executive Vice President and Provost Michael Bowers said the programs contain few students, and those students will be able to earn their degrees.

The board voted to add two new degree programs at UNR: a bachelor of science in metallurgical engineering, which will be funded by the Nevada mining industry; and an online executive Master of Business Administration degree program that will accommodate students in rural areas of the state. Both programs are self-supporting and do not require state funding.

Regents will reconvene today at Western Nevada College in Carson City. For more agenda information, visit http://system.nevada.edu/Board-of-R/index.htm.
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