During his annual State of the System address Tuesday at the Atlantis Hotel Casino, Nevada System of Higher Education Chancellor Jim Rogers stressed many of the themes that members of the University of Nevada, Reno have heard from the institution's new president over the past year.
"We must develop a culture of completion that expects students to attend fulltime," Rogers said in a recorded speech that was followed by a similar recorded message from Washoe County School District Superintendent Paul Dugan. "We accept our responsibility to help our students graduate once they come through our doors. We ask your help and understanding that these students must attend fulltime if they are to be successful.
"We understand that the primary reason for attending less than fulltime is the need to earn money to live and pay for school. We must provide a source of funds so that students can go to college fulltime."
After the speeches, both leaders, who were at the overflow gathering in the Atlantis' Ballroom as part of the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada (EDAWN) "Morning Buzz Breakfast," answered questions from the audience.
"We have to start developing a culture of participation and partnership with the private sector," Rogers said during the question and answer period. He also reiterated his point about student retention and completion rates, "We do not do a very good job of mentoring our students once they are in the front door ... We find that once the student leaves, we never get them back."
Later, during the question and answer period, Rogers did note that he was pleased to hear from University President Milton Glick that the University had successfully recruited 10 National Merit Scholarship recipients to this year's freshman class.
"We have to be in the business of keeping the best at home," he said.
During his speech, Rogers stressed that higher education in Nevada is "at a crossroad."
For the state's two- and four-year institutions to succeed, Rogers said, they must do a better job of partnering with K-12, with the business community, and with the communities they serve in being able to "support students to keep them enrolled through graduation."
Rogers cited, in particular, how the composition of the state's population will increasingly shift to minority or currently underrepresented groups: "This new Nevada will be increasingly Hispanic, Asian and Black."
He said the change presents opportunities and extreme challenges for the state: "Nevada is not attracting enough college-educated workers to compensate for our failure to educate its own. We rank 50th in the education level of our young workforce. But we do rank first as the state with the fastest-growing number of jobs requiring some college."
The stakes are high, Rogers said.
"If more Nevadans do not go to college and graduate, we will soon have a workforce that can not even begin to compete globally," he said. "That must not be our future. ... I am sickened with the constant barrage of statistics that say Nevada is last, and I intend to change them with your help."
To that end, Rogers said his leadership will revolve around three key themes in the coming year:
- Health Sciences System development and support: "We must raise substantial funds from private sources to make this a reality, but the building blocks are in place," he said;
- State and business partnerships: "I plan to work on bridging the gap between 'the town and the gown' and ensure we are listening to you as we plan and allocate resources," he said;
- P-16 Advisory Council alliances and the improvement of Nevada's educational system (the P-16 Advisory Council was created through enabling legislation from Senate Bill 239 in the 2007 Nevada State Legislature to assist in the coordination between elementary, secondary and higher education).
On the final point, Rogers said, "I am delighted the new P-16 Advisory Council with its 11 members has been created. This combination of all education holds great promise. I will continue to serve as a member of the council and look forward to the development of a broad vision of how education in Nevada can be the best in the country for all of our citizens."