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The Tier 1 Drive

Campus News  |  Nov 14, 2013  |  By Brian Sodoma
(R. Marsh Starks/UNLV Photo Services)

Sometimes being in the top 4.5 percent in your field just isn't good enough.
That's the case President Neal Smatresk is making - and for good reason. Currently, UNLV enjoys distinction as a "High" research university from the Carnegie Foundation, placing it among the top 4.5 percent of the country's 4,600 institutions. Earning a Carnegie Tier 1 "Very High" rating would put UNLV in the top 2.3 percent, alongside just 108 institutions in the country.

"A lot of people make a big deal about U.S. News and World Report rankings, but Carnegie is the gold standard for rankings," the president said.

The jump to Tier 1, however, isn't about prestige, Smatresk said. It's about ensuring Nevada reaps the rewards that highly active research universities bring to their communities. (Read more about those benefits in Smatresk's column, "Our Road to Tier 1.")

To get there, UNLV must restore a good part of the 144 state-funded faculty positions lost during the Great Recession of 2008-12. Last academic year, UNLV's total faculty was 780 -- some 250 positions short of the mean for Carnegie Tier 1 institutions with our student size.

The Tier 1 plan is not merely about growth; it is about deploying faculty effectively to improve UNLV's performance. This plan calls for UNLV to:

  • Improve its graduation rate -- from roughly 42 percent today to 60 percent within six years
  • Increase patent and licensing activity to about $7 million a year. Smatresk also expects faculty members to, on average, double the amount of grant and contract dollars they bring in.
  • Increase its endowment by $300 million
  • Increase annual giving by $60 million.

"If you want the benefits of a major research university in Nevada, you have to invest in us. But we're obligated to be accountable," Smatresk said.