Thursday, November 20, 2008

Tuition hike would dash dreams

This first published November 20, 2008 in the Henderson Home News, a Community Newspapers of Nevada publication.

A meeting between Gov. Jim Gibbons and representatives from Nevada higher education took place last week that included University Regent Chairman Michael Wixom, Chancellor Jim Rogers and Daniel Klaich, a vice president in the system, to discuss the upcoming budget. The Carson City meeting lasted a whopping 30 minutes.

First of all, 30 minutes isn’t enough time to even suggest anything, much less agree to anything. However, I’m sure it felt like a 12-hour day for the governor having to sit with his chief nemesis, Rogers.

One of the subjects Rogers and Gibbons discussed was raising college tuitions to help fill the gap.

Apparently, it was an effective use of time and enough to get the tuition increase ball rolling.

Since then, much has happened to make an increase more likely. It now has the support of State Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley and a band of others with vested interests in higher education in Nevada. However, there is one caveat being tossed around, and it seems to make an increase palatable. That is any tuition increase would stay at the individual institution rather than go to the general coffer for redistribution.

The situation is so desperate in Nevada that every possible avenue must be explored. However, this doesn’t change my concerns about education in Nevada as whole.

Nevada is at the bottom, rated 47 of 51, when it comes the number of people who have completed a bachelor’s degree or higher — fewer than 25 percent of Nevadans.

Higher tuition in Nevada would put a college education even further out of reach for Nevada families. I predicted that enrollments would drop starting in January because of economic hardship. Raising tuition right now would only exacerbate the problem.

Many families may be reconsidering college options for their kids, such as enrolling them in the community college for two years to complete transferable undergraduate courses for less before enrolling them in UNR or UNLV.

Many Nevadans are concerned about losing their jobs, owing more for their homes than the market value and keeping up with the enormous cost increases of groceries.

According to a poll commissioned by the Reno Gazette-Journal and KTVN-TV Channel 2, 26 percent of respondents said they were “afraid” or “very afraid” for their jobs; with 37 percent “not too” afraid and 21 percent “not at all” afraid.

Nevada is ground zero for the mortgage crisis and now foreclosure crisis. Many parents were counting on second mortgages to fulfill college promises to their children. Those promises are now impossible to meet for many parents who are now faced with losing the roof over their heads. The dreams of getting a college education are quickly vanishing for many young people.

I don’t know about your household, but our grocery bill has nearly doubled in the last two years, even with fewer kids at home. It’s even more of a hardship for the adult student who is working a full-time job and going to school full or part time in an effort to better their quality of life and improve their employment opportunities. Oftentimes they are also raising a family at the same time.

Education is often the key to opening the gate leading out of poverty or into financial independence.

If the governor, Legislature and the Board of Regents raise college tuition now, they may as well change the locks on the gate of opportunity for many Nevadans young and old.

This is survival of financial fittest at its best.

Tim O’Callaghan, co-publisher of the News, can be reached at 990-2656 or He writes a regular column One Man's View.