UNLV's College of Engineering Makes a Good Case for Keeping Higher Education Funded

Apr. 8, 2011

Location: Channel 3 News
Hetty Chang reporting

Nevada’s colleges and universities are in for their biggest fight yet. Under the governor’s budget, they face losing nearly one-third of their state funding.

That’s why education advocates are pushing hard on an idea: the more Nevada invests in education, the more the state gets back. Students are proving the theory every day.

Only in Las Vegas can you find so many world-class shows in one place. Take Cirque du Soleil’s “KÀ” show at MGM, where performers balance on a rotating stage. What you may not know is that some of the magic behind the show is designed and created at UNLV’s College of Engineering.

“A good example of that is the vertical stage that is predominantly displayed in KÀ; a lot of very creative engineering went into that,” explains UNLV Graduate Student Association president Kyle George.

George says that’s proof enough that engineering programs are worth saving. Like dozens of other programs at UNLV, the College of Engineering is facing cuts by as much as 20 percent under Governor Brian Sandoval’s plan.

“We tend to forget that UNLV contributes to our society and our economy in more ways than just educating people in degrees,” said George.

Studies show that for every dollar Nevada invests in higher education, it gets $16 back.

“If you look at the dollar amount that’s making us, it’s absolutely tremendous,” George said.

Dean of the department Rama Venkat believes the potential payback students can make to the economy is priceless.

“We want them to think big and build big. The goal is economic diversification.”

Ten years ago, Venkat began the senior design competition at UNLV in which engineering students compete for money for their senior design projects.

Venkat says last spring’s winning team is on its way to opening a business based on their design project.

“Last week, I heard they’re getting an LLC, which means they’re starting a business here in Nevada.”

“Right now, our college has to cut 20 percent,” Venkat continues. “I have to let go of tenured faculty, which means students aren’t going to get the type of attention they deserve to get and will not be able to build that many projects.”

University regents will receive budget updates from all of Nevada’s college presidents on Friday. It will take place at the Board of Regents meeting at the Desert Research Institute.