Just off the graveyard shift, Aaron Starks refuels with coffee in the early-morning quiet of the student union at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, steeling himself for his classes in electrical engineering.
Starks, who’s 27 and raising a 19-month-old daughter, is in his third year at UNLV, persevering in the face of not only sleeplessness but deep state budget cuts that have forced courses to be canceled, programs eliminated, faculty furloughed and services exasperatingly scaled back — all while tuition has soared.
Many other students in Nevada, however, are giving up. In this world-famous gaming capital, the odds are stacked against them. Just 36 percent earn their four-year degrees within even six years, a smaller proportion than in any state except Alaska. And as tuition rises, enrollment has been falling. That, accompanied by an exodus of college-educated workers, has further shrunk the proportion of 25- to 34-year-olds in this state with degrees, already the lowest in the country.
When Starks is finished, he intends to leave, too.