Regents OK to continue consolidation of GBC, UNR | Local
ELKO — The Nevada Board of Trustees this week approved a request from Great Basin College and the University of Nevada, Reno to pursue a possible “consolidation” of higher education institutions.
No new details of what might be involved were offered when the council met in Elko on Thursday, but a few people offered their support for the proposal which could impact education in most rural areas of Nevada.
GBC professor Kevin Seipp said the expansion of the college’s vocational and technical education programs has been made possible in part through economic alliances with UNR.
“Preserving higher education in the State of Nevada by providing programs of this nature in rural Nevada enables GBC to fulfill its mission, both current and future,” he said.
John Tierney, chairman of the GBC Institutional Advisory Council, also said he supported the idea, and IAC member Terry Clark said she wanted the Regents to understand that GBC has provided “incredible support to the development in this area.
People also read…
Regents candidate John Patrick Rice pointed out that GBC has seen many transformations in the past and that “what sustains a higher education institution is its faculty. Presidents can make deals, but the work is done at the department level.
Rice said he looked forward to working on the project in any capacity.
He encouraged the board to learn how a new alliance between GBC and UNR would benefit both institutions, as well as any impact on the other six institutions in Nevada’s higher education system. “Sometimes solving a problem for one group creates a problem for others. It will be the responsibility of the board of directors to ensure that such a makeover indeed creates a butterfly.
Great Basin College started as a community college in 1967, grew to offer four-year degrees, and eventually expanded to the farthest corners of the state over 86,500 square miles.
GBC President Joyce Helens began working on the alliance four years ago with UNR President Marc Johnson. A program to facilitate transfers from college to university was announced in fall 2019.
“The important thing is that we focus on every student we advise at both institutions, so that students can find their way to a path that combines GBC and UNR,” Johnson said at the time.
The relationship developed further with current UNR President Brian Sandoval.
“We’re still looking at what’s next,” Helens told the Nevada Independent in August, calling the proposal a consolidation, not a “merger.”
“Often, consolidations have taken place to ensure the ‘survival’ of higher education institutions after decades of dwindling resources, steadily declining enrollments and lagging student success measures….” Helens and Sandoval wrote in their briefing to the regents.
According to data released this week, fall enrollment at GBC is down 9% on a full-time equivalent student basis. But dual enrollment (high school students) fell 37.5% this fall, the first year since NUR began offering its own dual enrollment program.
Almost three-quarters of GBC students (73.7%) now study entirely online, while only 42% of enrollees expressed a preference for internet-only courses.
One thing that the presidents have said will not be changed is the Great Basin College’s name, or “identity”.
“In the best-case scenario, two institutions consolidate with complementary strengths to chart a more secure and viable future while preserving the diversity and excellence represented in their missions and identities. This is the case with Great Basin College and the University of Nevada Reno,” they wrote.