UNR has big plans for expansion

Sep 18, 2014

In the next seven years, the University of Nevada, Reno has big plans for expansion. At Wednesday's State of the University address, President Marc Johnson said the school will be hiring more faculty and constructing more buildings to keep up with record enrollment.

Reno Public Radio's Michelle Bliss attended the speech and has these details.

By 2021, UNR plans to hire at least 250 tenure-track faculty members to teach a projected 22,000 students. The school's current head count is just under 20,000--its highest enrollment ever.

Growing the faculty will help solidify UNR's reputation as a research hub, along with lowering its student/teacher ratio to 18-to-1.

In order to pull this off, the school must increase several revenue streams, including tuition and fees, state funding, grants, and donations. After collecting a record $54 million in donations last year, Johnson says this level of financial prosperity is finally possible.

"We have shouldered a horrible economic event with dignity and momentum," he says. "We now are growing rapidly and we're now poised to make a profound difference in the life of this campus and this community. Now, we are in a place where growth will be matched by resources."

But interspersed with this sense of optimism and momentum for the future, UNR still faces some harsh realities.

"Even with the potential of these new revenues, the fact is, today we're still operating with less unrestricted annual revenue than in 2009 before the economic downturn started," Johnson explains. "We're still suffering from the loss of a number of colleagues. We're still dealing with the effects of a salary reduction due to furloughs."

Along with hiring more tenure-track faculty, UNR will need new and renovated spaces to house additional teachers and students. Just last year, the school faced a $900 million backlog on maintenance projects, including the need for replacing aging electrical, roofing, and HVAC systems across campus.

The school is working to address those ongoing needs.

"We are building new facilities, and in some cases tearing down old facilities, which takes care of some of the backlog of deferred maintenance," Johnson explains, "but we also explicitly put several million dollars a year into doing away with deferred maintenance."

Two future buildings already under contract include new facilities for the departments of fine arts and engineering.

In his speech, Johnson also made sure to note the importance of new partnerships between the University of Nevada School of Medicine and regional hospitals to expand clinical teaching in Reno in an effort to keep more doctors in the state after they graduate.