Students flocking to Southern Nevada colleges

Out of luck pretty much sums it up for an untold number of prospective college students this semester.

Michael Richards, the president of the College of Southern Nevada, said enrollment there looks to be climbing again, while the school’s budget cannot keep up.

The result, he said, is that the state’s largest college is turning away potential students. That’s exactly what a community college is not supposed to do.

“We’re getting more calls this year on closed classes than we ever have,” Richards said Wednesday. “We’re turning away one qualified applicant for the nursing program for every two who apply.” The more qualified the applicant — grade-point average and previous health care experience play into that — the more likely that applicant is to get in.

When the final numbers are in, enrollment at CSN will likely be somewhere between 43,000 and 44,000 this semester, he said. That would be an increase of as much as 5 percent. Enrollment was up by about that rate last fall and the fall before that. Until this year the budget kept up, with annual increases of about the same.

But all of higher ed’s state funding was cut this year, with CSN’s overall budget — including revenue from tuition and elsewhere — remaining essentially flat.

Similarly, Nevada State College officials expect a significant increase in enrollment this year over last year. Provost Lesley Di Mare said it looks like enrollment will be up by as much as 9 or 10 percent. NSC, the state’s newest school, enrolled about 2,100 students last fall.

Di Mare said the economy was partly the reason for the increase, but she suspected a fairly new marketing effort by the college did not hurt.

Unlike the crowded CSN, the state college has not had to turn away qualified students, she said — even in high-demand fields like nursing. She said they have added some courses and increased the class sizes in others. Being a small institution, she said, makes such efforts easier.

UNLV, with about 28,000 students, is not turning away students, either. Suzanne Espinoza, the associate vice president for enrollment and student services, said enrollment will probably increase about 1 to 1.5 percent. She said classes fill up every semester, and this one will be no different.

Budget cuts there have forced larger class sizes, she said, as they have at CSN and NSC too.

Espinoza said financial aid applications at UNLV are up 20 percent over last year.

Officials at all three schools said the bad economy often drives people back to school.

Final enrollment numbers won’t be available for several weeks.

Contact reporter Richard Lake at or 702-383-0307.

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