LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The President of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Dr. Keith E. Whitfield, delivered his State of the University address where he talked about the challenges higher education is facing and the challenges he thinks UNLV is ready to handle.

Whitfield spoke about nationwide trends including falling enrollment numbers and the value of education being questioned.

“These challenges are not new to our industry, but higher education has been too slow to respond,” Whitfield said.

Some states are seeing enrollment numbers down as much as 10%, Whitefield said. In the fall 2022 semester, UNLV’s enrollment was down 2%, compared to pre-pandemic levels.

However, UNLV welcomed one of the largest first-time, full-time freshman classes in the university’s history this past semester.

“We are fortunate that UNLV is in a better situation than most institutions, but we still have work to do to strengthen our position,” Whitfield said.

Whitfield spoke of his goal to have 40,000 students by 2030 and to have at least double the number of programs ranked in the top 50 nationally.

To help combat this issue, UNLV is working to increase its reach of students nationally and beyond.

“We wanted to bring the world to UNLV by increasing the number of international students that attend our university,” Whitfield said.

In the fall, UNLV saw a 27% increase in enrollment for international graduate students. The university also hired 13 new recruiters, almost doubling the pre-pandemic number.

Also for the first time, UNLV is working to specifically market graduate programs to people who may be looking to change their career paths or give their career an “energy boost.” That campaign will begin later this month.

The 81st session of the Nevada Legislature adjourns Monday and Whitfield spoke about how UNLV plans to work with lawmakers and the Nevada System of Higher Education to support Nevada Governor Joe Lombardo’s budget request for higher education.

This support includes a full restoration of pandemic-related budget cuts, which amounts to around $18 million for UNLV, Whitfield said. Additional funds would go toward revitalizing the campus by building a new Fine Arts building, a new entrance on Maryland Parkway, and a new gathering spot for students called the “Heart of Campus.”

Whitfield also announced a new program that will start in the fall called Rebel Ready week which will help students transition to university life.

A week before school starts, students will be able to stay at UNLV at no cost, to help new students build a sense of connection, community, and to overall help students feel like they belong.

Another goal that Whitfield would like to meet is ensuring students have a greater understanding of financial literacy.

Whitfield also addressed how UNLV joined 2,000 other colleges and universities across the country to become a smoke-free and tobacco-free campus in August.