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Thom Reilly has been chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education for a little over a year now. 

He oversees Nevada's colleges and universities, and reports to the elected Board of Regents. 

In that year, quite a bit has changed, at least at the state level.  

Nevada's new governor, Steve Sisolak, is a former member of the Board of Regents, which governs NSHE.  

Reilly and Sisolak have known each other for years. 

But will that make any difference for, say, issues of funding needed throughout Nevada’s higher education system? 

"Our budget is built around our goals of access and our goals of working on graduation rates,"  Reilly told KNPR's State of Nevada. 

He said as it stands NSHE's budget includes about $120 million in new funding and he believes the system can stick to that budget. 

"If our budget keeps and we can convince legislators that this is the right focus on the issue of higher education I think we will be well served," he said.

It is those twin goals of improving access to higher education and increasing graduation rates that Reilly has a laser-like focus on right now. He believes the way the higher ed system is structured in Nevada will help the state achieve those goals.

"We need an educated workforce that has gone back to the founders of this nation for a free society you need an educated workforce," he said, "In order for it to happen, we have to talk about how we broadly educate the system."

Support comes from

He thinks that requires a rethinking of higher ed and changing several long-held practices.

For instance, Reilly believes it means talking to students as early as middle school about careers and the education needed to achieve that career path.

Reilly also believes it includes support for community colleges and how students that start there can move to a four-year university.

"[Community college] is - and it remains - pivotal to us meeting the New Nevada economy," he said.

Reilly said community colleges can provide workers for emerging and current high-skill, in-demand jobs.

But it is not just the traditional classroom setting that the goals of increasing graduation and improving access will be meet, Reilly said.

He believes Nevada has an opportunity to improve its online learning opportunities.

NSHE and MGM Resorts International have already partnered to offer free online classes for MGM employees if they sign up for a degree or certificate.

"It's how we push our system to do more online education," he said, "We're behind the 8 ball on the issue of offering online degrees and distance education." 

Reilly said Nevada's system of open access and one umbrella organization overseeing everything will help it achieve its goals.

"Access without success does not translate into opportunity," he said.

Guests

Thom Reilly, NSHE chancellor

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