It is a provocative question, and one that was asked in earnest on campus and throughout the community this year. As we explained in the spring 2008 issue, UNLV was preparing for a drop in state funding even before the current economic downturn began eroding Nevada's coffers.
By the time this issue reaches you, the Legislature may have established the budget for the next two fiscal years. No matter the final numbers, one thing is certain: The current economic crisis will take a toll on the state's higher education system. This challenge too shall pass, however, and UNLV will continue progressing in areas vital to our future success.
We will have a framework for building upon our strengths. One way we positioned ourselves for budget cuts was to institute a hiring freeze, leaving more than 360 vacancies in faculty and staff. Short term, this is hampering our ability to meet student needs. Long term, however, I believe this will enable us to focus on our strengths. As our economy recovers and we identify and secure additional resources, we will restore positions with careful consideration of how to build our most vital and promising programs.
We will have formed new partnerships. The budget situation forced us out of the status quo. On the academic side, for example, we recently introduced our first joint Ph.D. program with UNR (in public health); I do not believe such a partnership would have been embraced as strongly if both of the state's universities had better funding.
Another example can be seen in the Division of Educational Outreach, which has been very entrepreneurial in expanding online course offerings. By working with local businesses, the division is adapting to the community's workforce development needs as those needs change.
In the future, you will also see more public-private partnerships, such as the one that helped the College of Urban Affairs bring environmentally friendly design features to the new Greenspun Hall (see page 4). In the Engineering College, a collaboration with NV Energy provided resources to create a minor in solar and renewable energy.
We will address funding inequities. As long as anyone can remember, education has been a victim to the swings of Nevada's budget cycles. There is a significant disparity between UNLV's funding and its mission. I believe the crisis has created resolve within our leaders to act on these tough issues and to place education at the top of the state's priority list.
We will have stronger advocates for higher education. Finally, this crisis created lifelong advocates for UNLV. I have been very impressed with the way students have engaged in the budget debate (see "The Young and the Restless,"). It also prompted many community leaders, donors, and alumni like you to re-engage with the university and speak up for the needs of higher education. Your efforts have not gone unnoticed. Our sincere thanks goes to you for supporting UNLV through this time and ensuring that there will indeed be a strong UNLV for future generations.