A task force created to look at Nevada’s community colleges is recommending sweeping changes to the way the colleges are run.
The task force’s report, to be presented to the higher education system’s governing Board of Regents this week, recommends revamping or tweaking online education, K-12 partnerships, remedial education, tuition pricing, the funding formula and the colleges’ governing system, among other changes.
In all, the report recommends 10 changes.
“I think all 10 of them merit further investigation, further discussion,” said Michael Richards, president of the College of Southern Nevada.
With 44,000 students, CSN is the largest higher education institution in the state.
Richards said some of the report’s recommendations clearly are good ideas, though he is hesitant to back others. He said remedial education does need reworking, and the relationship with K-12 schools could be strengthened.
But one recommendation, in particular, has some of the faculty up in arms.
The report proposes outsourcing online education and creating a largely private Nevada Virtual College.
Sondra Cosgrove, chairwoman of CSN’s chapter of the Nevada Faculty Alliance, said the group will fight that proposal.
“NFA members see this as eliminating professors from the equation,” she said.
Richards said CSN educates 500 full-time equivalent students in online classes in 30 programs.
Like the faculty, he, too, said the proposal to outsource online education leaves many questions.
“We’re already doing that,” he said, with critical oversight from the CSN faculty. It is unclear how much oversight, if any, faculty would have in a private system. He said other issues were unclear.
“We’d be creating a ninth institution for the state,” he said. “And if so, would it have its own accreditation? And would it cost the state money?”
The task force report speculates that such a system would not cost the state money.
Aimee Riley, student body president at CSN, said she found the recommendations disturbing.
“This is the wrong direction for the state of Nevada and our higher education system,” she said.
She had problems with the recommended online outsourcing, as well as a recommendation to charge some students more than others for the same courses, depending on factors such as how recently they graduated high school or whether the student is full-time or part-time.
Dan Klaich, the higher education system’s chancellor, said he wanted to hear from the four community college presidents before passing judgment on the task force’s recommendations.
He said that he was glad to see a recommendation that future technology needs to be a focus and that online education was an important topic, whether or not the recommendations are put into practice.
“Whether it needs to be outsourced or whether that’s something we can do in the state is an open question,” Klaich said.
He said the recommendation to expand dual enrollment programs, in which high school students attend and get credit for college courses, made sense, too.
He was troubled by a recommendation to take some responsibility for governing the community colleges to local boards that do not yet exist.
But overall, Klaich said he was pleased with the task force’s report.
“It’s a bold agenda we will have to seriously consider,” he said. “They’ve done exactly what I asked them to do.”
Contact reporter Richard Lake at email@example.com or 702-383-0307.Recommendations from a task force on community colleges:
1. Create a strategic plan focusing on student outcomes
2. Focus on future technology needs
3. Establish a Virtual College for online courses
4. Strengthen partnerships with K-12
5. Revamp remedial education
6. Implement variable tuition pricing
7. Align certificates with the state’s needs
8. Expand dual high school-college enrollment
9. Change the state funding formula
10. Add local governing boards
ON THE WEB:
Fresh Look at Nevada’s Community Colleges Task Force