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(Photo Courtesy of UNLV Photo Services)
(Photo Courtesy of UNLV Photo Services)

UNLV and UNR Sending Mixed Messages Concerning Tier One

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UNLV and Nevada-Reno (UNR) are misinterpreting the definitions of Tier One and Carnegie Very High, causing confusion among community leaders and legislators.

The Nevada Board of Regents agreed on March 6 at the Desert Research Institute that UNLV and UNR must eliminate the confusion and clearly define which term the institutions want to message.

“We have to be very careful with how we use these terms and make sure that our goal, north and south for both universities, is Carnegie Very High” said Regent Rick Trachok.

Regent Kevin Page voiced similar concerns. “It’s not Tier One, it’s Carnegie Very High,” Page stated. “I think it’s a problem, and as we go on and ask people to support this initiative, it’s important that we’re consistent on what we’re asking for,”

Trachok’s and Page’s suggestions to both institutions comes after former UNLV President Donald Snyder launched UNLV’s Tier One Goal and Indicators draft on Sept. 18.

On UNLV’s website, the draft details the institutions’ “Path to Tier One” with the purpose to “become a Tier One, Carnegie Research (Very High) University.”

A new UNLV president has been named since the release of Snyder’s draft, but he will continue with it.

According to UNLV’s website, President Len Jessup “will lead UNLV on its path to becoming a high-performing, community-engaged Tier One research university.”

To Regent Allison Stephens, UNLV’s message needs more clarification.

“The day that we approved the contract with President Jessup, my request with him was to please define what you mean by Tier One,” Stephens said. “This is an issue that has been swirling. I know I’ve heard a couple regents say what is a Tier One again verses Carnegie Very High?”

“If we could get clarity, that would be helpful for me and for legislative efforts, so that we get the funding we need,” Stephens said.

While Jessup did not comment during the Regents meeting, UNR’s President Marc Johnson did. “The Carnegie definition of research institution does not have Tier One attached to it. It has been attached locally, but that is not part of the Carnegie definition,” Johnson said.

Further clarity of definitions and messaging from UNLV and UNR however, will have to wait until another meeting.

Stephens added, “I would like to see something in the future where we have an opportunity to go through and say what’s what, because again, it all comes down to that messaging.”

The confusion persists in the way the two universities identify themselves and their aspirations for the future.

A week after the Regents meeting, UNR’s website homepage was still heralding the school as a university that provides a “national Tier One education.” It stated: “U.S. News and World Report ranks us as a national Tier One university. We earned this distinction by the quality of our students, faculty, research activity and degree programs.”

The UNR Internet reference is to a popular rating by U.S. News and World Report and not the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, which is a more formal ranking system that does not specifically have a Tier One rating.

UNLV was not backing away from its aspirations to become a Tier One university either. Jessup referred to the initiative during his Town Hall meeting Thursday.

Officials of the two universities were scolded by the regents for the confusion surrounding their use of Tier One language. However, it may take awhile for that message to be received–or, as some observers have said, it may just be business as usual.


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