The maxim goes that in a down economy, people go back to school to learn new skills.
The proof is showing up in preliminary enrollment numbers at the College of Southern Nevada and Nevada State College. Both are reporting record counts this semester. The final enrollments won’t be official until the end of the semester.
Leaders at both institutions say they could have grown far more if they had the resources to accommodate more students.
“We just don’t have the faculty,” Nevada State College President Lesley Di Mare said. “It’s hard to get the part-timers you need. The budget cuts have really hurt us.”
Meanwhile, UNLV’s enrollment dipped slightly, largely because the university has eliminated some departments in a budget-cutting move.
UNLV President Neal Smatresk said undergraduate enrollment remained flat. Records show it grew by 100 students. But enrollment in graduate school dropped by several hundred. The drop was particularly steep in the school of education, where the university eliminated the educational leadership program.
The university’s total enrollment this semester is 27,613, a 3 percent drop from last fall.
CSN’s growth slowed a bit, from
4 percent last year to 1 percent this year. The community college reported 43,686 students signed up this fall, the most ever. CSN is the largest higher education institution in the state. Its enrollment is nearly as high as UNLV’s and the University of Nevada, Reno’s combined.
CSN officials said they could have squeezed in many more people if they had more space and more money.
“Given the resources we have, we’re about at our saturation point,” CSN President Michael Richards said.
Data from the community college show that there were more than 11,000 attempts — some of them multiple attempts by the same person — to sign up for Communications 101, which had 4,000 open spots. In all, 2,000 people were denied spots in the class.
Similarly, 5,600 attempts were made to get into 1,000 open spots in Biology 189. In the end, 1,500 people were denied a spot in the class.
CSN’s growth has been phenomenal. In 20 years, enrollment has nearly tripled. Over that same time, UNLV’s enrollment grew by about 75 percent.
But Richards said CSN’s rapid growth is coming to a halt because the school is almost out of room and money. He said that is bad for students and bad for Nevada.
According to an economic impact study the school released Thursday, CSN generates $865 million per year in additional income for Nevadans.
Richards said the study, conducted by Economic Modeling Specialists, Inc., notes that the state’s taxpayers get a 9 percent return on their investment in CSN.
Even with the community college’s rapid growth, it is at Nevada State College where the growth has outpaced everyone else’s. NSC opened in 2002 with 177 students. The number more than doubled the next year to 500. Since then, it has averaged 16 percent growth a year. If that were to continue, NSC would reach UNR’s enrollment of 17,000 students in 11 years. This year, the state college added almost 500 new students to hit 2,994, a growth rate of 18 percent.
Di Mare said the college may alter scheduling next semester to try to fit in more students. It has moved much of the education program to the evening so other students can use the college’s facilities during the day. Roughly one-third of the students at Nevada State are in the education program.
Di Mare said the economy is certainly a driving factor in the college’s growth. But she also said more students are returning for a second year at the college. Retention of those students combined with a slew of new students means huge growth rates.
Contact reporter Richard Lake at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0307.