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Nevada System of Higher Education Chancellor Dan Klaich (Photo courtesy of
Nevada System of Higher Education Chancellor Dan Klaich (Photo courtesy of

Two Top Tier Universities Will Cost Nevada, but it’s Worth It

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UNLV has an identity crisis concerning the status of becoming a Tier One institution according to Nevada System of Higher Education Chancellor Dan Klaich.

He explained the issue with the term Tier One and the inconsistencies that have been communicated between Northern and Southern Nevada in terms of what the title means during a press conference Tuesday at UNLV.

“I can’t talk about this without talking about North/South issues,” Klaich said.

The University of Nevada, Reno is ranked as a Tier One institution by U.S. News & World Report. The University of Nevada, Las Vegas is on the path to pursuing the rank of Research University/Very High by the Carnegie Foundation, but is not ranked yet.  Though they are both high rankings, they are two completely different scales.

Klaich explained that the misunderstanding stems from switching between the titles of Tier One and Carnegie Research University/Very High.

There has been such an issue with the misuse of or switching between terms that UNLV President Len Jessup has decided to refrain from using Tier One and instead use Top Tier. The plan to achieve that Carnegie status is now called the Top Tier Initiative.

“One of the things I liked about the response that your new president gave with respect to what [Tier One] was, first of all he’s gotten rid of the term Tier One, and he calls this a Top Tier experience,” Klaich said.

“I think he refers to it as a Top Tier experience for everybody. For undergraduate, for research, for service. But it costs,” he added. “And if the state wants to have two Top Tier universities in this state, which it should, we’re going to have to pay more because I can’t look across this table to you and say we’re going to create that university on the back of additional student loans and fees. It’s just not going to happen.”

While the U.S. News ranking is popular with the public the Carnegie Foundation ranking system is one generally used in academic circles. The confusion between the two rating systems was discussed at a recent meeting of the NSHE Board of Regents and members of that board told the presidents of the two universities to stop using the Tier One title because of the confusion surrounding it.

Regardless of which term is being used to describe it, Klaich expressed his doubt in UNLV even reaching the status it aspires to be at any time soon due to budget cuts in the past few years resulting in the elimination of a large amount of staff.

“They won’t,” Klaich said. “It’s not a freebie.”

A conflicting matter regarding the budget cuts was brought to light during the press conference after Jessup’s salary was discussed not long after the comments about cutting staff.

Klaich explained that he did not think it was a mistake to pay Jessup so much more than the other presidents in the NSHE system when Jessup became UNLV’s president in January.

“He’s worth every nickel of it and I think we’re going to get that investment back in spades,” Klaich said.

He explained that going into the process of finding a new president for UNLV he knew that the person chosen would get paid more. He said most of the possible candidates were already making more money than other presidents in the Nevada system.

As chancellor of the Nevada System for Higher Education, Klaich oversees both universities, the Desert Research Institute, Nevada State College and all the community colleges in Nevada.

“We started out this process knowing that the market was likely to dictate a high salary, and we started out the process knowing that getting a mediocre president for UNLV was not an option. So I think I made the right recommendation. I think the board made the right decision,” Klaich said.

President Jessup is paid an annual salary of $525,000, plus benefits, making him the highest paid president in the NSHE. Marc Johnson, president of UNR, made a base pay of about $360,000 in 2014. Johnson’s total pay plus benefits ended up being about $430,000. That would mean Jessup will make anywhere from $95,000 to $165,000 more than Johnson.

The past two presidents of UNLV averaged less than half of the salary Jessup will be paid this year. His salary not only includes base pay, but also money for cars, housing, entertainment, etc.

Klaich addressed the conflict of paying the president a higher salary after budget cuts, faculty salary cuts and staff losing jobs took place. He said there is a problem with inconsistencies in situations like this, but they have to be dealt with on a case by case basis.

“We’re going to the Legislature saying we need more money. So there are inconsistencies and they do cause us problems, but I still think we made the right decision,” Klaich said.

He stands firm by his and the Board of Regents’ decision to choose Jessup as president of UNLV. He believes that paying this president more is a worthy investment for the university itself and the community as a whole.

Klaich added that he hopes Jessup remains at UNLV for a decade, which would be a long tenure for a university president. Neither of the two most recent presidents at UNLV held the position for that long.

“A president changes everything about an institution and if you get the wrong person, this institution will suffer and I don’t think that the history of UNLV, the history of the state and the critical role that this institution has to play in the development of our economy, we could take that chance.”

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