LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The fact that some smaller private American universities are being forced to close isn’t lost on the president of Nevada State University.

According to a SHEEO national report, those universities have closed because of low enrollment and poor retention.

NSU President Dr. DeRionne Pollard notes the university as a “secret sauce” that has kept the campus desirable to more than 7,000 students. The recipe includes classrooms, undeveloped land, and students.

“A lot of our students are living in the valley, a majority of them,” she said. “They know that we are affordable, we’re accessible, and we’re designed for their success.”

Affordability was a keyword while discussing NSU’s answer to enrollment in Nevada because 83% of the students receive financial assistance while attending, and nearly 70% of those same students receive the Pell Grant.

“That means they’re in the lowest quartile economically,” Pollard said. “As a result of that, when you have to make a choice between working or paying for school — in an environment where we see increased inflation — often education takes second fiddle.”

The solution as Pollard sees it is that NSU can guide students facing economic challenges while helping fill Las Vegas niche industry shortages in teaching, nursing, and special education.

“We know that the idea of accessible and affordable higher education is the key for economic development in this region,” she said. “We know that nearly half of all nurses that earn a bachelor’s degree in our region come from Nevada State University.”

Nevada’s ranking for high school students is another factor for a university like NSU looking to encourage further education, Pollard said.

“There’s a narrative that we have to talk about with where Nevada ranks. Depending on what list you look at 46th, 47th, 48th in terms of the number of adults who have a college credential,” she said. “Dual enrollment and concurrent enrollment are very important to start planting this idea of college consciousness earlier.”

Programs that encourage an individual’s investment in secondary education are a key to spurring continued education, she said.

One year ago, Nevada State dropped the “college” in their name and scored “university,” and it’s a change Pollard said boosted campus spirits. She said the change didn’t come without a battle, but it was worth it because the new name validates what NSU does.

“The idea that [students] can say that ‘I’m going to a university,’” Pollard said. “It starts to introduce the idea of college consciousness and university readiness earlier.”

She added, that some studies indicate a person with a degree has a 60% lifetime increase in how much money they can earn.

“We want to ensure that the fact that we serve the new majority of higher education of those folks who are returning adults, veterans, students of color, first-time generation students to think very deeply about the fact that their credential means something in the marketplace.”

The university is also banking on growing. There are also several hundred acres of undeveloped land owned by NSU which has spurred conversations of growth opportunities such as a large athletic facility and maybe a boutique high school for Clark County School District in the coming years.

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