Plan to change Nevada State College to Nevada State University gets initial approval

Jacob Solis
Jacob Solis
Higher EducationLegislature

The Board of Regents voted 9-4 on Friday to start a name-change process for Nevada State College to become Nevada State University, sending the matter to the Legislature after six months of stops and starts. 

Friday’s vote authorized NSC President DeRionne Pollard to lobby state lawmakers to create a legally distinct “second” university tier to the Nevada System of Higher Education’s superstructure, sitting in between the constitutionally created “State University” comprising both UNR and UNLV, and two other tiers with the state’s two-year community colleges and the Desert Research Institute. 

“We believe that it's important to have a name now that reflects who we are, what we do, but also carries the value proposition that is necessary for our students and our community,” Pollard told the board. 

The bill that would make that change has not yet been introduced ahead of rapidly approaching bill introduction deadlines at the end of March. However, Pollard told regents Friday that the college has already begun discussions with legislative education committees, and that Sen. Roberta Lange (D-Las Vegas), chair of the Senate Education Committee, will sponsor a name-change bill. 

After Friday’s vote, Lange tweeted simply: “Hooray. Lots of support in NV Legislature.”

The college would still need to begin a renaming process with the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, the regional accreditation board and create changes to the system’s internal handbook and procedures manual. 

Pollard told regents that those changes would be complete on a roughly three-to-four-month timeline. Should lawmakers approve the tiered approach, the change could be official by July 1.

Four regents opposed the move on Friday, largely citing concerns over unintended consequences in the long term. The no votes came from Chair Byron Brooks, Vice Chair Joe Arrascada and Regent Stephanie Goodman. Regent Susan Brager also voted no, although she cited not having enough time to review the proposal since her election in 2022 as the reason for her opposition.  

A four-year college was established in 2002. Nevada State College administrators have argued in recent years the name change was necessary, both to more clearly define the difference between NSC and the state’s community colleges, and because of a perceived benefit for students with a four-year “university” degree, rather than a “college” degree. 

After years of internal research and lobbying to switch from college to university, a bid to get the name change past regents last September stumbled after regents raised unresolved questions over potential technical, legal and accreditation conflicts created by the change. 

Those concerns were eased following an additional regents meeting in December, after which the pathway through the Legislature emerged.

More recently, the college’s administration has buoyed its position with a wave of political support for the move. In advance of Friday’s meeting, the support included resolutions in favor from the Cities of North Las Vegas and Henderson, as well as letters in support from both U.S. senators, Southern Nevada’s three members of Congress, nine members of the Nevada Black Legislative Caucus, former Gov. Bob Miller, the mayor of Henderson and the presidents of UNLV, the College of Southern Nevada and the Desert Research Institute.  

On Friday, when pressed by Arrascada, Pollard said the name change would not affect faculty pay rates or the cost of tuition and fees at Nevada State — policies dictated in large part by the state’s higher education funding formula. 

Pollard also rejected the implication that a Nevada State name change would devalue student experiences at UNLV and UNR — a point raised in part by Arrascada, Brooks and Goodman. 

But some regents also raised long-term concerns over potential unintended consequences, questioning whether current promises not to affect issues such as faculty pay or admissions standards would hold over the next two decades. 

“I'm stuck on this, trying to understand the process of what this is gonna look like five years from now,” Brooks said. “Because you [Pollard] are very clear on your intent, and I absolutely appreciate it. My concern is what happens in five years or 10 years, when things might look a little bit different?”


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