Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011 | 2 a.m.
Joe Louis, the boxer/unintended economic analyst, once said something along the lines of: Everyone has a plan until they’ve been hit.
Nevada has taken some heavy blows to the head — more so than virtually every state. Unemployment is high, perhaps the highest in the nation; economic activity and tax revenue are low; and any recovery is stagnant at best.
To continue with the boxing metaphor, we weren’t knocked out, but now we need to drag ourselves to our corner and get ready for the next round. To compete successfully in the ring again, we need to figure out what we should do so that we can land our punches effectively. That process starts with some pointed questions.
Why weren’t we ready for this downturn? Economists tell us that we failed to diversify Nevada’s economy — that we relied on just a few industries.
Clearly, then, we need to widen our economic base and attract high-paying jobs, but how does that happen?
Gov. Brian Sandoval’s forward-looking workforce and economic development initiatives are a crucial starting point. I very much welcome and value his leadership in that regard. However, we must all acknowledge that it is impossible to build our economic base — and to attract new employers and new industries — unless we have an educated workforce.
We in the Nevada System of Higher Education understand that we must be a central focus of these initiatives if Nevada is to succeed in attracting new industries and high-paying jobs. In fact, the system’s mission should be a logical extension of the governor’s initiatives, and it must bring all of its resources to bear in identifying and addressing the underlying issues.
The Board of Regents, led by its new chairman, Jason Geddes, is enthusiastically committed to this effort. Experiences here and in our sister states tell us that we must adopt the following objectives, if we are to successfully pursue the governor’s vision:
First, the higher education system and secondary schools must communicate and cooperate more effectively so that we increase the number of college-ready students who graduate from Nevada’s high schools and then go on to state community colleges and universities.
Second, we must increase the number of high school students who take advanced placement courses and co-enroll in college, which will prepare them for technical training and college.
Third, we must make the path to higher education clearer for students from minority and economically challenged communities.
Fourth, we in higher education must ensure that higher education institutions more efficiently and effectively meet the needs of our state, so that we use our limited resources wisely. In particular, we must increase the number of degrees and certificates of value from our colleges and universities to meet the next generation of jobs in Nevada.
Fifth, although we understand that tuition and fees have been increased, and may go up even more in light of our economic crisis, Nevada’s political and educational leaders must do all we can to
keep college affordable and accessible for all Nevadans.
Sixth, we must engage more community, business and political leaders with these objectives.
As we in Nevada put our gloves back on and get ready for the next round, if we are to succeed we must have specific plans that look forward to a brighter future that comes with an educated workforce. To that end, all of Nevada’s educational institutions must be aligned with that goal in mind, and the Board of Regents will be working diligently to provide the needed leadership to ensure success.
Michael Wixom is a member of the Board of Regents, which oversees the Nevada System of Higher Education.