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(Photo by Camalot Todd)
(Photo by Camalot Todd)

UNLV Tuition Increase to Fund Tier One Initiative

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In the midst of the national debate on affordable college tuition, UNLV passed a measure that will have the opposite effect.

UNLV just funded its initiative to move to Tier One rank by raising tuition 17 percent over the next four years, starting with a four percent increase next fall.

Tier One is a rank achieved when a university reaches a very high capacity in research, which is determined by the Carnegie Institute. Currently, UNLV is considered Tier Two.

The UNLV Tier One initiative is referred to as Tier One Plus. The goal is to achieve excellence in fields outside of research as well, said Nancy Rapoport, senior advisor to the UNLV president and chair of the Tier One Executive Committee.

James Thomas, special adviser to the president for Regional Development, is consulting with a board of directors on how to implement a plan to transition UNLV to this rank.

Thomas believes that it will take UNLV at least 10 years, possibly 20, to transition to this rank, especially considering the funding required.

“The Board of Regents needs to step up its game [with funding],” Thomas said. “It can’t just be tuition increases. They need to look into fundraising within the community.”

Recently, there was a fundraiser to support the medical school as a part of the Tier One Plus plan.

Barbara Atkins, planning dean of the UNLV Medical School, started a fundraiser that will delegate 100 percent of the proceeds towards the first 60 students’ medical educations.

According to Rapoport, that’s about $100,000 per person. The donors will get to meet the students they’re funding at the White Coat Ceremony.

“The medical school will do for health care in Las Vegas what the Smith Center did for the arts here,” Rapoport said.

Alexandra Adriazola, CSUN’s Senate secretary, agrees with Thomas and Rapoport. She supports UNLV becoming a Tier One university and building a medical school. However, Adriazola does not support how it’s being funded.

“CSUN believes that raising tuition to get UNLV to that Tier One status puts more pressure on the backs of students,” Adriazola said. “They raised the tuition, but didn’t increase scholarships or grants offered to students.”

Current tuition for in-state undergraduate students taking 12 credits at UNLV is $2,691 per semester, according to UNLV’s cashiering website. With the 4 percent increase, next fall’s tuition is projected to be $2,799 for those same students.

However, Rapoport said that financial aid will increase proportionally with the tuition prices. She also said that there are funds set aside for first time and low economy students so that they can continue to attend UNLV.

Adriazola said that CSUN is pursuing two initiatives to help students with this tuition hike.

UNLV’s student government is talking to the Regents about a lockdown proposal that would allow students to pay the tuition that they had when first admitted.

The second proposal is to increase the credits that the Millennium Scholarship applies from 12 to 15 credits.

“So many students depend on the Millennium Scholarship to help pay for their education, but it only covers 12 credits. But, if you talk to your counselors, they’ll tell you to take 15 to Finish,” Adriazola said. “That’s their motto at UNLV, so we are trying to get that resolved.”

Adriazola worries that the students who will pay the bill won’t get any of the educational benefits of attending UNLV when it’s a Tier One institution.

“Even though the students who are paying now won’t attend UNLV when it’s a Tier One school, that reputation will follow them,” Thomas said.

Thomas also believes that UNLV’s transition to Tier One makes sense. He said that it will ultimately benefit UNLV and the Las Vegas community.

“But, it is hard to get any economic benefits until UNLV reaches that Tier One rank,” Thomas said.

Yet students like Adriazola are worried that with the tuition increase and no gain yet in financial aid will make paying for college difficult.

“I work two jobs. I have scholarships and grants, but there are months where I still struggle to make ends meet,” Adriazola said. “I’m worried that this increase will be on the backs of students like me, and they’ll pursue education elsewhere.”

“These are smart people you don’t want to lose,” Rapoport said, referring to minority and first time students.

However, she said that these students don’t need to worry. Part of UNLV’s Tier One Plus plan is to show first time students the ropes.

“We want to grow [students] here,” Rapoport said. “[Tier One status] will blow doors open for people with UNLV degrees. The better the school, the better their degree.”

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