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The Lincy Institute Research
& Policy Briefs

Research Reports

Held Harmless: Higher Education Funding and the 77th Session of the Nevada Legislature

by David Damore, Phd.
October 2014

During the 2013 legislative session, Nevada’s higher education funding structure was reformed. Yet, to date, there has been no comprehensive analysis of the impact of these policy changes. In “Held Harmless: Higher Education Funding and the 77th Session of the Nevada Legislature,” UNLV Political Scientist and Brookings Institution Nonresident Fellow David Damore examines higher education formula and non-formula appropriations for 2014 and 2015 to assess what the higher education funding reforms did and did not accomplish. The report also assesses capital differences between UNR and UNLV and to more fully evaluate what occurred in 2013, details how revenue from student fees and tuition were accounted for under the old funding framework and during the transition to the new funding formula.

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Nonprofit Organizations and the Nevada Economy: An Analysis of The Employment, Economic Impact, and Scope of The Nonprofit Sector in The Silver State

By: Jessica K. A. Word, Ph.D., Jaewon Lim, Ph.D., Carol Servino, Ph.D., Kenneth Lange, M. Ed.
September 2014

The State of Nevada changed rapidly in recent decades, enjoying one of the longest and most sustained population growth periods in the nation, followed by a severe period of economic contraction and recession. Unemployment during the Great Recession of 2007 reached a peak of 13.8% for Nevada in August of 2011 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012). Amid the challenges faced by the Nevada’s economy, the nonprofit sector worked to combat the ravages of the economic downturn through the provision of services to communities across the state. The research report provides an overview of the economic contributions of the nonprofit sector and its role in the diversification of Nevada’s economy using data from the 2010 and 2011 Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages program (QCEW) and the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS) Business Master File (BMF) for August 2012.

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Competing for Federal Grant Dollars in Nevada

By: Cyndy Ortiz Gustafson and Jennifer Oullette
May 2014

Federal grant funding in Nevada accounts for 19 percent of statewide federal funding, or roughly $3.7 billion a year. Federal grant funding consists of (1) formula based aid and, (2) competitive discretionary grant dollars. Nevada is 50th out of 50 states in securing federal formula and grant funding, ranking behind all other states and most territories (which would make us 52nd or 53rd behind states and territories) in competing for and obtaining competitive grants and formula funding. Over the course of the last ten years, Nevada ranked 50th in federal grant expenditures every year, with the exception of two years (2005 and 2008), when Nevada claimed the 49th spot. Nevada is failing by every measure, and the cost is dramatic. This failure affects Nevada’s quality of life measures, our efforts to provide high quality education for children and college students, the ability to attract new and innovative businesses to the state, and the capacity to invest in economic development and infrastructure projects, healthcare initiatives, public safety improvements, and services for veterans and seniors. Read more.

Identifying and Describing the Network of Health, Education, and Social Service Non-Profit Organizations in Southern Nevada

By: Shannon M. Monnat, PhD, Anna Smedley, MA and Fatma Nasoz, PhD
November 2013

This brief presents the results of a partnering survey designed to measure the partnering power of each health, education, and social service non-profit in southern Nevada indicated by the connections between these organizations. The survey documents which organizations engaged in the most partnering, increasing the potential that they could better leverage investments and philanthropy through their social network. University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV), United Way of Southern Nevada(UWSN), HELP of Southern Nevada, Catholic Charities, Three Square, the Clark County School District, Goodwill of Southern Nevada, and Opportunity Village consistently ranked highly in terms of overall participation and activity, influence, access to information and resources, and ability to mobilize the non-profit community. There were also a number of smaller organizations that we found to be important brokers and connectors, and these organizations can be used as models for improving the capacity of lower-budget and lesser-resourced organizations in the community.

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Economic Impact of Medical Education Expansion in Nevada: Economic Impact Assessment and Recommended Approach

The Lincy Institute commissioned Tripp Umbach to prepare an economic impact report to show the value of a new, four-year allopathic medical school in Las Vegas. To accomplish this task, Tripp Umbach evaluated multiple medical school development models in order to recommend the model that would provide the greatest economic impact to the state of Nevada and the Las Vegas Metropolitan area. This report includes a feasibility analysis and an estimate of return on investment and relative costs of creating a new, four-year allopathic medical school in Las Vegas. Read more.

The Las Vegas Promise Neighborhood Initiative: A Community-Based Approach To Improving Educational Opportunity & Achievement

By: Sonya Douglas Horsford, Ed.D. and Carrie Sampson, M.S.
May 13, 2013

By increasing the capacity of local child and youth-serving organizations, building a continuum cradle-to-college and career solutions, and integrating programs and respective data systems in ways that leverage existing assets and resources, the Promise Neighborhood model shows promise in our ability to advance educational opportunity and achievement among the students who need it most. In anticipation of the possible release of a Promise Neighborhoods federal grant competition this summer, The Lincy Institute releases its technical report, "The Las Vegas Promise Neighborhood Initiative: A Community-Based Approach to Improving Educational Opportunity & Achievement." The report offers a brief overview of Promise Neighborhoods, the original LVPN planning grant application, and discussion of the collaborative activity that LVPN partners have engaged in since its original submission, and the "promise" of such neighborhood-based education reform efforts in Southern Nevada. Read more.

Nevada's English Language Learner Population: A Review of Enrollment, Outcomes, and Opportunities

By: Sonya Douglas Horsford, Ed.D., Christina Mokhtar, Ph.D., and Carrie Sampson, M.S.
March 25, 2013

The purpose of this report is to provide the public with an easy to understand review of the status of education for Nevada’s English Language Learner1 (ELL) population with a focus on Clark County. Nevada is ranked first in the U.S. for having the highest growth rate of Limited English Proficient (LEP) individuals and fifth in the nation for having the largest share of LEP residents, only behind California, Texas, New York, and New Jersey (Migration Policy Institute, 2011). In the case of public education, student enrollment patterns over the last two decades reflect dramatic increases in ELL students in Nevada and especially Clark County. Read more.

What is a Healthy Community?

By Denise Tanata-Ashby, J.D.
January 2012

The health of a community is dependent not only upon the genetics of its residents, but also upon the environment within which those individuals live. A person's health is a product of their environment. As such, a healthy community is one in which all residents have access to a quality education, safe and healthy homes, adequate employment, transportation, physical activity, and nutrition, in addition to quality health care. Unhealthy communities lead to chronic disease, such as cancers, diabetes, and heart disease. The health of our communities is critical to the growth and development of our region. To build healthy communities in Southern Nevada, we must develop multi-sectoral collaborations between community members and stakeholders to ensure the sustainability and adequacy of resources to support comprehensive reform. Read more.

Policy Briefs

The Case for a New College Governance Structure in Nevada: Integrating Higher Education with Economic Development

By: Magdalena Martinez, Ph.D.
David F. Damore, Ph.D.
Robert E. Lang, Ph.D.

The Case for a New College Governance Structure in Nevada provides a governance model that integrates higher education with economic development. Specifically the authors, in response to a call for recommendations by the Committee to Study Community College Governance, identify governance models that are evidence based and constitutionally sound to achieve Nevada's economic development goals. The proposal includes a two-tier structure that has legislative oversight and recognizes and empowers localities. The model does not propose to dismantle any existing public institution of higher education nor to place colleges under the exclusive control of local governments. Read more.

Understanding Nevada’s Higher Education Governance for Two-Year Colleges: Challenges and Solutions

By: Magdalena Martinez, Ph.D.

State governance of colleges and universities is an indicator of the state’s relationship with key stakeholders, such as business leaders, elected officials, policy makers, and local residents. Accordingly, a state’s college governance structure shapes two-year public colleges’ institutional priorities and how these vital institutions respond to local workforce needs. Around the country, an important function of two-year colleges is to provide training and skills for regional workforces that align to local business and industry needs. This brief examines the origins of two-year colleges and compares Nevada’s college outcomes with those of similar states through the use of federal postsecondary data systems and an analyses of college governance structures. Read more.

Time to Talk: The Mental Health of Adults in Nevada

By Ramona Denby, PH.D.
Sandra Owens, PH.D.
Sarah Kern, B.A., MSW Candidate

About 11.3% of the adult population in Nevada report a past-year mental illness, with nearly 4% of them experiencing disorders serious enough to impair their functionality. Almost 13% of Nevada adults have substance abuse disorders, this is the second highest statewide substance abuse prevalence rate in the country; the District of Columbia is first at 14.7% of its population (SAMSHA, 2013). With most states (including Nevada) now increasing their mental health care budgets after years of spending cuts—between 2009 and 2012 there was a $4.35-billion drop in state mental health spending (Ollove, 2013)—pertinent questions center on needed treatment, research, and policy directions. The increased federal attention and support given to mental health care access has primed states across the nation like Nevada to move toward strengthening their service infrastructure. In this brief we first compare Nevada’s mental illness prevalence rates with those of peer states and national trends and then explore some strategies that could prove useful in positioning our state to address the mental health needs of its residents. We must elevate the discussion of mental health to the same level of seriousness given to the concern for physical health challenges as experienced by adults. Read more.

How are the Children: Challenges and Opportunities in Improving Children's Mental Health

By Ramona Denby, PH.D.
Sandra Owens, PH.D.
Sarah Kern, B.A., MSW Candidate

The mental health of children is critical to their growth and development, but when their well-being is considered, discussions more often gravitate toward physical health, nutrition, education, parental influences, and living conditions. While these all represent important indicators of well-being, discussions also need to consider the importance of children’s mental and behavioral health. In this brief we explore the status of Southern Nevada’s children as it relates to mental health outcomes. Using a secondary analysis of multiple primary datasets, including the National Survey of Children’s Health; Mental Illness Surveillance among Children in the United States; and the Mental Health National Outcome Measure, we analyze the mental health status of children in Southern Nevada. In doing so we provide an overview of services, access, and the implications of the Affordable Care Act. Outcomes are considered in relation to peer states as well as national indicators. This brief provides implications for strengthening the overall mental health service infrastructure, service delivery, and community capacity so that children will experience optimal mental health outcomes. Read more.

Beyond Small Change: Reforming Nevada's Approach to Education Reform

By Sonya Douglas Horsford, Ed.D.
June 2013

When it comes to education, Nevada’s reputation as a low-performing state in no way reflects a shortage of reforms. The politics of high-stakes accountability characteristic of federal education policy since the 1980s has resulted in much reform, but “small change” in terms of funding and improved outcomes in the Silver State. This brief examines the history of Nevada education reform and why Nevada must reform its approach to improving schools by turning its attention from unfunded mandates to adequate and equitable investments in education. It concludes with a discussion of how Nevada policymakers and educational leaders can move beyond small change to transform the educational trajectory of a state that is uniquely positioned for educational and economic success. Read more.

Parent and Family Engagement

By Sonya Douglas Horsford, Ed.D. and Tonia Holmes-Sutton
August 2012

Parent and family engagement in the educational lives of children and youth positively influence student learning and achievement. While this connection may seem obvious, varying ideals of parent engagement limit the ways in which school communities understand, encourage, and benefit from meaningful school-home-community interactions. This is frequently the case in culturally diverse, urban communities where education reform has focused heavily on high stakes testing, teacher accountability, and school choice, but less on the fragile connections that often exist between schools and the families they serve. The purpose of this policy brief is to review selected research on parent involvement and expand existing understandings of parent and family engagement in ways that are culturally relevant and responsive to the diverse strengths and needs of families in urban communities. It concludes with specific recommendations for strengthening parent and family engagement. Read more.

A High Stakes Gamble in North Las Vegas

By Robert E. Lang, Ph.D.
April 2012

The City of North Las Vegas, operating in the shadow of the Las Vegas Strip, one of the world's most iconic urban settings, faces a series of financial and political challenges that threaten its ability to perform basic municipal services. This paper explores how North Las Vegas reached the edge of insolvency, the implications for North Las Vegas and the surrounding municipalities of Las Vegas, Henderson, and unincorporated Clark County, and the path forward in the face of unprecedented economic and political turmoil. Read more.

Ready for School, Ready for Life

By Sonya Douglas Horsford, Ed. D.
April 2012

School readiness continues to be an area of growing concern in education and public policy circles. The notion that "all children should arrive at school ready for the first day" has important implications not only for parents, early childhood educators, and K-12 schoolteachers, but also policymakers, business owners, and our local and state economies. The purpose of this policy brief is to define school readiness, present the most recent conceptualization of school readiness in the state of Nevada, and consider the challenges inherent in building bridges between the separate and distinct domains of early childhood and K-12 education. The brief concludes with a summary of selected policy recommendations for advancing school readiness in Nevada as part of the state's broader goals of increasing educational opportunity, equity, and achievement among its children and youth. Read more.