Funding of Higher Education’s Performance Pool, Economic and Workforce Development, and Research Subcommittee

June 26, 2012

David Zeh provided testimony at a meeting of the Nevada Legislature’s Economic, Workforce Development and Research Committee regarding the Funding of Higher Education’s Performance Pool.   The full testimony can be found below:

Assemblyman Paul Aizley

Funding of Higher Education’s Performance Pool, Economic and Workforce Development, and Research Subcommittee

Thank you Chairman Aizley for this opportunity for public comment. My name is David Zeh, and I am Chair of the University of Nevada Reno, Faculty Senate. I would like to comment on latest version of NSHE’s Performance Pool Model (version16), specifically with regard to the Nevada universities, that is, UNR and UNLV. First, I suggest that the new model, which now includes a 20% weight for research expenditures, is a step in the right direction. Rewarding research productivity is essential to ensuring that our universities remain centers of learning excellence. Nonetheless, I am disappointed that this new model does not include direct incentives for institutions to become more efficient at graduating their students. Without such
incentives, we will be doing a disservice to our students and also to our institutions of higher learning.

As you may know, student loan debt has replaced auto loan debt and credit card debt as the top source of debt in the nation. The total outstanding student loan debt now stands at a staggering $870 billion. For all borrowers across the nation, the average student debt is $23,000. In this regard, it is important to point out that the longer a student pursues a degree, the greater the debt accrued. That is, there’s a strong relationship between the years to completion and the accumulated debt. Moreover, students who fail to graduate accrue large amounts of debt without any of the considerable economic benefits of obtaining a BS or BA degree.

In Nevada, we cannot just reward institutions for the number of graduates. We also must incentivize our institutions to become better at the efficiency with which we graduate our students. Right now, 14% of students at UNR and UNLV complete their degrees in four years. The six-year graduate rates, about 40% at UNLV, and approximately 53% at UNR, are much better but still are not nearly high enough by national standards. 

To address this problem, we need to include six-year graduation rates in the NSHE Performance Pool component of the new Funding Formula. As a starting point in the discussion, I propose that a 10% weight be applied to six-year graduation rate in the current “University Performance Outcomes and Points” model. To compensate for including this new metric, the weights for number of Bachelor’s degrees and Master’s and Doctoral Degrees should each be reduced by 5%, to 35% and 15%, respectively.

Nevada recently received a failing grade for the “student access and success” component of the recently published “Leaders & Laggards: A State-by-State Report Card on Public Postsecondary Education” by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ( A major factor in determining Nevada’s “F” grade was “The four-year institutions rank in the bottom 10 states in terms of completion rate …” While graduation rate is not a panacea for student success, it is a national and international benchmark by which universities are ranked. Increasing graduation rate at NSHE’s universities will lower the debt burden on our students, improve the rankings of our universities, and attract businesses to the state seeking a well-educated work force.


P.S. Tennessee has recently adopted six-year graduation rate as a significant component of their funding formula for higher education ( and it is likely that other states will be following Tennessee’s lead.

Thank you,

David W. Zeh
Chair, Department of Biology
Chair, Faculty Senate
University of Nevada, Reno
Reno, NV 89557
Tel: (775) 682 5735
Fax: (775) 784-1302

More information regarding this Legislative subcommittee can be found at the following link:
Funding of Higher Education’s Funding Formula Subcommittee


Greetings from David Zeh, 2012-13 Faculty Senate Chair

June 14, 2012

Dear Faculty,
The Faculty Senate held their scheduled executive board elections at their May 9, 2012 Faculty Senate meeting and we are proud to present the new Faculty Senate Executive Board Members to you:
Chair:                         David Zeh (Biology)
Chair-elect:                Swatee Naik (Mathematics and Statistics)
Parliamentarian:        Chuck Price (Joe Crowley Student Union)
At Large:                    Trish Ellison (CABNR)
                                   Glenn Miller (CABNR)
Ex Officio:                    David Ryfe (Journalism)
Contact information for the new executive board can be found at the link below:

I encourage all faculty to communicate regularly with their Senators to help identify issues of importance that we may consider in the coming year.

The 2012-13 Senators are listed by the unit they represent at the link below:

Below I provide a brief summary of some of the accomplishments of the 2011-2012 Senate, and I outline goals and challenges for the new Senate.


Synopsis of the Activities of the 2011-2012 Senate

The UNR Faculty Senate, in collaboration with faculty, the University Administration and other NSHE institutions, accomplished a great deal over the last year. We reviewed the implementation of curricular review in the College of Education, the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources, and the College of Cooperative Extension. We created a University syllabus policy and a new, more coherent policy on S/U and test credit limits. We implemented a University student dismissal policy, and a new policy requiring background checks for academic and administrative faculty. We also assisted in the hiring process for our new President, and held a special Senate meeting to discuss placement of laid off faculty members. Finally, and perhaps most significantly, we established the “Commission for the Future of the University of Nevada” (CFUN), a committee of administrative and academic faculty charged with assisting the administration in the development of a strategic vision for UNR as a top-tier residential campus for the 21st century.

I would especially like to thank Chair David Ryfe for his Senate leadership over the last year. David worked tirelessly to make the Senate a more proactive and visionary institution, and was a key player in soon-to-be implemented revisions to NSHE code regarding curricular review.

Under this revised code, a university administration request for curricular review will:

·       Trigger Faculty Senate review of the budget to provide a recommendation to the Board of Regents (BOR) whether or not faculty support the    

     process of curricular review

·      Require the university administration to provide access to all financial data relied upon in developing a curricular review proposal; this will ensure that the process is objective and data-driven

·      Necessitate a decision to accept or reject the declaration of curricular review by the BOR


A key feature of the revised code is that faculty oversight will occur at all four stages of curricular review process:

·      Review of the trigger for curricular review

·      Review of the programs to be affected

·      Review of the reorganization plan

·      Review of the appeal process for faculty threatened with layoffs


The Senate believes that effective communication between administration and faculty will lead to better curricular review outcomes and better faculty morale in the face of adversity.


2012-2013 Senate: Challenges and Opportunities

In the coming year, the University and the Faculty Senate will be confronted with many challenges but also some significant opportunities. The economy is stagnant, NSHE is proposing a new funding formula for higher education that currently favors high enrollment institutions in the southern part of the state, and higher education faces unprecedented challenges provoked by rising tuition costs, increasing student debt, and technology-driven disruptive innovation (e.g., massive open online courses). The Commission is developing strategies to deal with many of these issues. The new funding formula, if adopted, will retain tuition and fees generated by each campus, and will provide the potential for growth and enhancement of university functions. However, we will increasingly be competing with regional institutions for tuition dollars, and this will require clever and strategic decisions to make our university more competitive and attractive to students both within and outside of the state. The new Senate is also working diligently to convince the Chancellor and Legislature that the new funding formula must reward not only numbers of graduates but also excellence in teaching, research and outreach. We are making some progress on this front.

Finally, as the new Senate Chair, I am committed to opening up lines of communication between the administration and faculty. Beginning in the Fall 2012 semester, we will be holding informal, monthly meetings in which the President, the Provost, and the Senate Chair will be available to discuss any issues of concern to the faculty. We will also charge one of our Senate Committees with soliciting suggestions from both administrative and academic faculty to reduce red tape and improve the functioning of the University.

Best wishes,

David W. Zeh
Chair, Department of Biology
Chair, Faculty Senate 
University of Nevada, Reno
Reno, NV 89557

Tel: (775) 682 5735 or (775) 784-1648
Fax: (775) 784-1302