Like many private colleges and universities, SNU has traditionally relied on tuition to support most of its operations. Because maintaining the necessary enrollment levels is a vulnerable long-term business model, the SNU Board of Trustees determined that SNU's financial future was no longer sustainable based on this model. The board needed to make major strategic changes, both to serve the needs of current and future students and to preserve the Incline Village campus for higher education.
The SNU Board of Trustees approached UNR in June 2021 regarding the transfer of academic assets and operations to UNR. The SNU Board of Trustees and Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) Board of Regents approved this acquisition in July 2021. In December 2021, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, the regional accrediting body for both UNR and SNU, approved UNR’s Substantive Change Proposal, authorizing UNR and SNU to move forward with the acquisition process.
The acquisition occurred on July 1, 2022.
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Sierra Nevada University
Sierra Nevada University opened its doors in the fall of 1969 with 23 students. Among the goals of the founders was incorporation of the unique environmental qualities and characteristics of the Lake Tahoe region into the academic programs at SNU. Decades later, fidelity to this goal is still reflected in the SNU academic mission and core curriculum, which emphasize the importance of environmental, social, economic, and educational sustainability.
Within four years of its founding, SNU had achieved candidate status for accreditation with the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU), and accreditation was granted in 1976. SNU experienced substantial growth in academic programs during the ‘70s, adding the undergraduate departments of Fine Arts and Management (now Business).
Graduate-level programs were added with the Teacher Education Program in the late ‘80s, culminating in the creation of the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) (2005), the Master of Education (MEd) in advanced teaching and leadership (2008), and the Master of Arts in Administration (MAA) in 2015. Innovative low-residency MFA degree programs inaugurated in 2012 allow aspiring writers (and soon visual artists) to learn from acclaimed professionals from any location.
As SNU Tahoe grew, Ralston Hall, David Hall, and the MacLean Library were added to the historic Mountain Campus. In 1991, the Lake Campus was acquired through private and foundation donations and, for many years, classes and activities took place at both the Mountain and the Lake locations. Sensing that SNU students and faculty needed to occupy a single campus where continued expansion was possible, the leadership at SNU decided to sell the Mountain Campus and relocate all activities, classes, and programs to the new Lake location by the start of the 2006-2007 academic year.
The move to the Lake Campus went hand-in-hand with the opening of several new, carefully designed buildings to facilitate student learning in this new location. The Prim Library and Learning Resource Center was opened in 2004 to provide students with an open, beautiful, and well-equipped space to study, research, and access academic services. The Tahoe Center for Environmental Sciences, the product of a historic partnership between SNU, the University of California, Davis, and the Desert Research Institute, opened in August 2006. The Tahoe Center for Environmental Sciences is a cutting-edge, “green” building that allows SNU students to engage in scientific pursuits within the walls of a LEED Platinum certified laboratory building, the first building in Nevada to earn this recognition. The Holman Arts & Media center opened in 2014, housing the Fine Arts programs in expanded spaces intentionally designed to foster collaboration and cross-fertilization.