State gets failing grades for college costs, graduation rates |

State gets failing grades for college costs, graduation rates

RENO (AP) – Nevada received failing grades for the cost of higher education and the low graduation rate in the state’s colleges and universities in a new national report.

In addition to the F’s, “Measuring Up 2006: The National Report Card on Higher Education” also gave Nevada C’s for how well it prepares students for college and student access to higher education and training.

However, one Nevada education official said the report is based on old data that does not reflect advancements already made in those areas.

“I don’t want to minimize the findings in this report in our relation to other states and countries,” said Jane Nichols, academic vice chancellor for Nevada’s higher education system.

“We do have to do more in these areas, but we have done better than this report reflects,” she said.

Nevada is one of 43 states given F’s for affordability of a college education, one of six key areas measured in the biennial report issued by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.

Nichols said the data used for the report does not include the state-funded $10,000 Millennium Scholarship given to academically eligible high school graduates or the portion of every hike in tuition and fees that funds needs-based financial aid for low-income students.

Patrick M. Callan, president of the nonprofit organization that compiled the report, said today’s high cost for a college education is one of the primary reasons the United States is falling behind other countries in providing people with the skills needed to compete globally.

From the early 1980s to 2005, the price of a college education has gone up 375 percent, while the median family income has increased 127 percent. That increase has far outstripped how much students get in Pell grants, the largest needs-based federal student aid program, Callan said.

Pell grants once covered more than 90 percent of a student’s college costs but now provide about 47 percent, he said.

The University of Nevada, Reno is working to close the enrollment gap between low-income and minority students and those who are white and from well-to-do families, said John Frederick, executive vice president and provost.

“We want to make sure we don’t have any disparity in who can go to college, but I think that is an issue for the nation as a whole as well,” he said.

“The fastest growing community in the nation and in our area is the Hispanic community. We will focus on them, but not exclusively, to ensure they have the wherewithal and the preparation to succeed in college.”

In Nevada, the national report card also found:

– Ninth graders are not very likely to enroll in college within four years, cutting down the likelihood they will get college educations.

– Young adults from high-income families are more than twice as likely as those from low-income families to attend college, and whites are twice as likely as nonwhites to be enrolled in college.

– It costs low- and middle-income students about 40 percent of their annual family income to pay the net costs (including transportation and rent) to attend public two- and four-year colleges.

– Compared internationally, with only 10 out of 100 students enrolled in an institution completing a certificate or degree, Nevada is surpassed by all nations with data available on this measure.

Nationally, Massachusetts has the highest completion rate, with 67 percent of its students getting certificates within three years or a bachelor’s degree within six years. That compares to a completion rate of 36 percent in Nevada.

However, Nichols said the data used in the report is several years old and Nevada’s completion rate, though it still needs improvement, is now at 48 percent.

She said the use in the report of outdated data, primarily from the U.S. Department of Education, also affects Nevada’s other grades in the report.

“This is based on data that is three to four years old, so all we’ve been doing to improve student graduation and retention rates and the more rigorous curriculum required to improve their preparation for college and the increases in needs-based financial aid. All that won’t be reported for another three to four years,” Nichols said.

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