Sunburned by the facts

Patrick Gibbons

The Las Vegas Sun continues its assault on education budget cuts, this time claiming that the cuts will destroy our economy.

Not so fast, Las Vegas Sun editorial board. Let's inject some facts into this debate.

Nevada appropriated $641 million to our higher education system in 2006, which works out to about $7,000 per student. Students themselves pay tuitions ranging from $2,000 to $4,400 per year.

The total cost of getting an education at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, or at the University of Nevada, Reno, is above $11,000 per year (excluding the cost of books, room and board and excluding other revenue sources such as sales, grants, contracts, gifts, and returns on investment which would only show an increase in the cost per student).

Yet after five years of college, only 29 percent of UNLV students and 30 percent of UNR students graduate.  After six years, only 39 percent of UNLV students and 49 percent of UNR students graduate.

With almost 40,000 undergraduates at UNLV and UNR, Nevada will spend hundreds of millions of dollars trying to educate students who will never earn a degree. Ultimately, those students will end up getting jobs they could have gotten without ever attending college – but still have to repay thousands of dollars in student loan debt.

We have a higher education system that takes from the poor and gives it to the Ph.D.

That is a great deal of money and human capital to waste. So cutting the budgets for our system of higher education will hardly stop economic growth or economic diversification.

Indeed, cutting their budgets might well improve our economy. As Dr. Richard Vedder has noted, the empirical evidence strongly suggests that to the extent that the Sun's prescription is followed, the Nevada business climate will be significantly damaged.