Looking Back: How The Great Recession Impacted UNR

Apr 11, 2019

More than a decade has passed since the 2008 economic recession. To reflect on its effect on higher education in Northern Nevada, KUNR’s Paolo Zialcita spoke with Arthur Chenin, an institutional research analyst at the University of Nevada, Reno who studied educational trends following the recession.

Immediately following the 2008 recession, the University of Nevada, Reno did not mainly rely on adjunct faculty, bucking the national trend at the time. Instead, the brunt of the labor fell to continuing lecturers, a position that falls between tenure-track professors and adjunct professors.

“They were made to teach more classes and larger classes. We moved to bigger lectures, and the idea with these lecturers was, in fact, in the name to teach larger lecture sections,” Chenin said.

This strategy caused the university to cut class sections and increase surviving class sizes. According to a study Chenin conducted in 2014, the average regular class size in fall 2008 was 37. Six years later, the average size grew to 51.

Large lecture hall style classes also saw a similar growth. They grew from an average size of 106 students in 2008, to 133 students in 2014.

Chenin also noted that the university began to offer more online courses.

“We have found an increase of online teaching we've done lately because this generation of students has grown up, literally, with computers from the time they were toddlers,” Chenin said. “And, so the idea of going online and taking a class online is not strange to them, and they find that way to free up their schedules a bit.”

These changes were made to account for a rapidly growing student population. Today, the university continues to struggle to accommodate these numbers.

“In recent years, the numbers of continuing lecturers have stayed the same, the number of adjuncts has increased slightly, but again, it's been a function of our increasing student enrollment. There are simply more students here; we have to teach them somehow. We can put them into bigger classes, but eventually, we reach a space issue. We don't have that many large lecture halls, so we got to make compromises; we've got to find out the best way to teach students with what we've got,” Chenin said.

In fall of 2018, UNR saw an enrollment of more than 21,000 students.

Disclosure: The Nevada System of Higher Education owns the license to this station.