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As part of our look at colleges and universities in the region, we're checking in with Nevada State College. 

The Henderson school is one of Nevada's three public four-year colleges and universities and had just under 5,000 students enrolled at the start of this fall's semester. 

However, compare that enrollment to what it had in the spring of 2017 - just under 3,500. The school's rapid growth has become one of its biggest challenges, President Bart Patterson said.

"We're trying to ensure that the students have a good experience notwithstanding really historic and remarkable growth," he said.

Patterson said the school's success is why the student population is growing so rapidly.

"I think the word is really out about Nevada State College, and the kind of experience that students will have if they come here," he said.

That experience includes smaller class sizes and better connections with faculty and staff compared with larger four-year institutions, he said.

But the 30 percent growth rate in two years has left the school scrambling to find enough of almost everything, including money and office space.

The school is building a new education building and residential halls, but those a still a few years out from completion.

Its education program is really at the core of what NSC does, but it has expanded into nursing. Patterson said it is rapidly expanding other programs.

Support comes from

"We have a lot more students coming to us in business, psychology, biology and visual media -- to name a few of the degrees," he said.

The school is also looking ahead to what degree programs it can provide in the future to help grow the state's economy. 

"What is the next big area that the state needs after teaching and education that the state college can really expand to and meet that state need?" Patterson said.

The new legislative session starts in a few months with a new governor heading it up. Patterson hopes lawmakers will provide the money needed for higher education and K-12 education.

"I would say we're making a big ask for the Legislature as part of the higher education system, and the Legislature and the governor have been very supportive of higher education over the last several years," he said. He believes the new Legislature and governor will be just as supportive.

Patterson is on board with the Nevada System of Higher Education's emphasis on moving the needle on student success and graduation rates. 

"We want students to not just come to system, but we want them to improve their success rates in getting a degree and to get that degree as quickly as they can because that will mean they will be into the workforce at a more rapid pace and earning a higher level of income and all the advantages that come with a college degree," he said.

However, he pointed out that many college students in Nevada are not traditional students who come to college right out of high school and focus completely on getting a degree in a timely fashion.

Instead, he said many are working either part time or full time, and they're working on their degree on the side. He said improving graduation rates will be difficult if students aren't working full time on getting a degree.

Besides the future of his school, Patterson also addressed his leave of absence earlier this year after being arrested on charges of driving under the influence.

"It was a very unfortunate event that I was involved in. I take the responsibility for that," he said.

He said he has received support from people on and off campus. He said supporters understand that people make mistakes and he has used his experience as a teaching opportunity for his students.

Guests

Bart Patterson, president, Nevada State College

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