RENO — Nevada has one of the highest high school dropout rates in the nation, and one of the lowest when it comes to college graduation rates, according to a new report.
The Chronicle of Higher Education, in its 2008-09 almanac, also ranks the state 47th in the proportion of adults with college degrees.
Additionally, the Washington, D.C.-based publication that looks at issues affecting higher education said economically, Nevada is among the hardest hit in the Mountain West region, but also has the fastest growing population.
In the Mountain West region, the Chronicle found legislatures had been increasing funding for higher education in recent years. Even during the latest economic downturn, they trimmed less than in the past, but not in Nevada.
“Cash-strapped Nevada was an exception, as the state’s governor recently asked for a 14 percent cut in higher education spending for the 2009 fiscal year,” the Chronicle noted.
David Longanecker, president of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, said Nevada, California and Arizona are suffering most in the region because of their tourism-based economies and a housing market crisis where the Silver State has become the leader in foreclosures.
“The dilemma Nevada faces is twofold: You have a lousy revenue structure and, at the present time, there isn’t a strong will to raise revenue or change the revenue structure,” Longanecker told the Reno Gazette-Journal.
Kenny Guinn was “a wonderful governor,” he said. “But he almost lost his job by raising the sales tax by a penny…
“So, that’s not going to happen again. Your current governor is not going to want to do that nor will the legislators who want to make it to their next terms. It’s the reality of your political climate.”
Nevada can’t lean any heavier on gaming, either, he said.
“Gaming has spread across the country, and California will eat your lunch, so there’s not much more you can milk out of that cow,” he said.
With no state income tax and a comparably low sales tax, Nevada does not have a viable revenue structure, so higher education is among the areas that will suffer, he said.
“I think you guys are in a very tough position, and education will take a slump over the long term.”