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Monday, February 13, 2012

Your Tuition at CSN may be going to UNR

Putting the Squeeze on Community Colleges


While President Obama talks about ballooning tuition costs across the nation, the Nevada System of Higher Education is trying to resolve some problems of its own.

At issue is the school funding formula, which is based largely on enrollment. Southern Nevadans complain UNLV receives less money in the budget than it produces for the state. Northern Nevadans say that’s no reason to go changing things.

Chancellor Dan Klaich has proposed a new plan to solve these imbalances. His intention is good—to encourage a school’s excellence rather than its mere existence. But it appears the plan would leave community colleges, such as the one where I teach, scavenging for the big boys’ leftovers. This is a problem when the College of Southern Nevada has the highest enrollment in the state.

One step appealing to universities and community colleges alike is enabling institutions to keep the tuition and fees that usually go to the general fund. College students help subsidize other programs when the governor and Legislature take an ax to their schools.

Under the new system, the cost of courses would guide funding. This would benefit universities and courses with labs and expensive equipment as opposed to liberal arts courses that help students understand the political process and how to think. It means more money for upper-division classes and less for the lower-division classes where students prepare for more advanced studies and training.

Funding would also depend on graduation rates, as Klaich recently told KNPR’s State of Nevada. “Right now, we are an input-based model. We fund on enrollments … We should be an output-based model.”
Output means graduates. Schools will get more money when they graduate more students. But, as several professors and administrators warned, this model could cause grade inflation and a collegiate form of social promotion.

Under the new model, universities would likely raise admission standards and possibly cut lower-division offerings. Community colleges would, then, have to do more remediation for at-risk students. And—since many of those students wouldn’t graduate—they’d have to do it with less money.

Even the best students often take classes at a community college not to get their associate’s degree but to retool specific skill sets or to prepare to transfer to a four-year program. Why force them to obtain a degree they neither want nor need if they will get a more advanced degree later? If an outstanding student could move to a four-year university after one year at CSN (i.e., without graduating), this system would encourage me to discourage the student from moving up. That’s haywire.

Klaich’s approach admirably seeks to force Nevada, especially Las Vegas, to change its culture and truly support education. Our appallingly low high school and college graduation rates reduce wages and revenues. Unfortunately, this would try to solve the problem at the level of output rather than input. The real problem is how our children are raised, the K-12 system and how educational institutions operate at all levels. And changing funding models isn’t about to fix that.

Michael Green is a professor of history at the College of Southern Nevada. Follow his latest political observations at


Anonymous said...

As the article noted, the Intention is good. Please don't punish us students / community colleges though because we didn't commit to a 4 year institution immediately.

There are numerous reasons other than those already mentioned in the article why we may not commit to a 4 year institution immediately.

I think it's also worth mentioning that if Community colleges would potentially have to do more remediation for at risk students, and then potentially have less students graduate. How does this affect the teachers and their willingness to continue teaching in this environment? It could be a vicious downward spiral, or the change may not be noticeable.

Ryan Clift
Com 101 - 4049

Anonymous said...

I feel that this is an attempt to fade out community colleges & force students to attend a four year college. If people have taken time away from college & need to get re-freshed on courses, such as I have, then it would be really hard for me to jump into a 4 year college and understand the material. Also, education would not be affordable to the averaage student. It feels like they are saying that a community college is not equivalent to a four year college.

Chris Smith
com 101 scc 4049

Anonymous said...

I think that it would be better for the colleges to recieve money based on enrollment rate. It would cause the colleges to have to create better conditions and the quality of the classrooms to get the high enrollment rates.... Education is definitely put on hte backburner in peoples lives. (Hence why when I go to walmart I rarely get the exact change back). This has to do with daycare as well. I have met many parents where they would rather give up their children's beginning educational years at a great school with great teachers and would rather go somewhere that has no curriculum whatsoever just because it is a cheaper tuition.

Nicole BAxter 101-4080

Bridget West COM 101-4080 said...

I completely agree with everything Ryan Clift said above. I believe it should remain to be an input-based system. As the article said, CSN has the highest enrollment in the state. We should be putting the money towards CSN if that's where the majority of the students are going. Higher enrollment rates mean more funding will be needed in order to accomodate these students and provide them with the classroom tools they need.

It would be a shame to change it to an output-based system. Not everyone goes to CSN for a degree. A lot of students attend CSN in order to transfer to a university later on. This would probably leave CSN with the least amount of money in the budget.

Sabrina said...

I agree very much with Nicole. Enrollment-based funding would give every college exactly the right amount of money to accommodate for its current students no matter their grade or graduation status. I think every college should be funded to the fullest of their potential, no matter if they're a University or Community... Both are just as important to the students attending.

Anonymous said...

I think the monies should go to the schools, colleges and universities that have the higher enrollment rates as they have more students. It kinda makes you feel that they are going to punish us for not going to a 4-year institution right off the bat. Alot of us start at the community college level and then go to the universities for the last two years, at least thats what i am doing. But funding to C.C's should be cut so the big boys can get the money.

Joseph Contreras COM 101HN 4049

Anonymous said...

I agree I think that funding should be given to the schools with the highest enrollment rates, regardless if they are 2 yr of 4 yr schools. Coming to a community college has been more affordable, but this has just been the stepping stone for me and will move on to a 4 year program eventually.

Angela Mains
Com 101 HN 4080

Karen Johnson Com-101-4080 said...

I appreciate the fact that the Chancellor has good intentions for excellence at CSN. After all the pre-reqs for my healthcare program, I will attend CSN for almost 4 years and only get an Applied Science degree.

Anonymous said...

I think funding should go towards the most enrolled colleges as well. The more students, the more money the school should have to educate them.

Andrew Govea Com 101-4049