Historical Background and Constitutionality

Historical Capsule of the University of Nevada

  • Constitutionally established in 1864.
  • Established at Elko, Nevada, in 1874.
  • Relocated in Reno, Nevada, in 1887.
  • First instruction at postsecondary level in 1887.
  • First degree awarded: Bachelor of Arts in 1891.
  • Branch in Las Vegas established in 1955.
  • Desert Research Institute established in 1959.
  • Community college concept established in 1967, with first campus in Elko, Nevada.
  • University of Nevada System established in 1969, with 4 divisions:
    • University of Nevada, Reno
    • University of Nevada, Las Vegas
    • Community College Division
    • Desert Research Institute.
  • Name changed to University and Community College System of Nevada in 1992.
  • Board of Regents expanded from nine extra-institutional members to eleven in 1993.
  • Board of Regents expanded from eleven members to thirteen in January, 2003.

Public higher education in Nevada was established essentially in the same manner as in many other states. Public institutions were developed in part from initial funding through grants of land to each state by the federal government. These lands were sold to establish funds that were earmarked for public institutions of higher education; these institutions were to offer training in agriculture and mechanic arts as well as education in the classics and liberal arts.

Senator Justin Morrill from Vermont was primarily responsible for passage of the federal legislation known as the Morrill-Nelson Land Grant Act which provided the funds, and which was signed into law by President Lincoln in 1862. The Act stated, in part, that:

"1) The state shall endow, support, and maintain at least one college where the leading object shall be, without excluding other scientific and classical studies and including military tactics, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts, in such manner as the legislature of the State may prescribe, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life.
. . .

3) Agricultural Experiment Stations will be established and cooperative extension work conducted in agriculture and home economics."

In 1864 the Nevada Constitution provided for establishment of a state university and the promotion of higher education:

"Article 11, Section 1

Legislature to encourage education; . . .
The legislature shall encourage by all suitable means the promotion of intellectual, literary, scientific, mining, mechanical, agricultural, and moral improvements...

Article 11, Section 4

Establishment of state university; control by Board of Regents.
The legislature shall provide for the establishment of a State University which shall embrace departments for Agriculture, Mechanic Arts, and Mining to be controlled by a Board of Regents whose duties shall be prescribed by law."

The University of Nevada was founded in Elko, Nevada in 1874 as the State's land grant public institution of higher education.

A major function of higher education in the State of Nevada is to provide the opportunity for all of its citizens to develop their intellect to the fullest extent. In doing so, higher education helps to furnish the State with skilled personnel in government, industry and the professions. (Cont.)

Many of the leaders of the State are products of Nevada's system of higher education, and the physical facilities of the system serve as cultural centers in various parts of the State. In sum, the system is committed to the furtherance of social, economic, and cultural development in the State through its teaching, research, and public service programs.