The 36th State to join the Union, Nevada is often referred to as the Battle-Born State. Indeed, its accession in 1864 made it the second of two states (after West Virginia) to enter into the U.S. just as it splintered under the weight of conflict. Though the state was largely arid desert at the time, the discoveries of silver and gold brought rapid migration even as the Confederacy waged its war of secession.
The state's first university, however, would not come to be until some time after hostilities had subsided. 1874 saw the establishment of the State University of Nevada in Elko. Ten years later, this institution relocated to Reno, just a few miles away from Lake Tahoe's captivating beauty. The campus itself, renamed the University of Nevada, Reno, is just as breathtaking, nestled in the shadow of the Sierra Nevada mountain range and offering a lush desert oasis for its 18,000 enrollees. Its geography also plays a role in its research opportunities. To the point, the desert campus is no stranger to tectonic events and is thus home to one of the largest earthquake-simulation labs in the nation.
Given that three-quarters of Nevada's population lives within a single county (Clark), it's not surprising that it only claims seven public universities. The largest of these is the University of Nevada Las Vegas, with some 22,000 attendees studying near the world's greatest gambling mecca. Its numbers are only trumped by those at the College of Southern Nevada. The two-year community college teaches nearly 38,000 a year.
Though there are only three private non-profit universities throughout the state, Sierra Nevada College is a true standout. Founded in 1969 on the stately northern shore of Lake Tahoe, the roughly 1000 students at Sierra Nevada can take advantage of a 10-to-one student-to-faculty ratio and, if inclined toward winter sports as are most in proximity of Lake Tahoe, of the school's highly regarded skiing and snowboarding teams.
In spite of the fact that there aren't a great many schools to choose from in Nevada, the Las Vegas metropolitan area has been among the fastest growing in the U.S. over the last decade. The result is a bevy of career opportunities at a tremendous discount. Indeed, where the national average for in-state public school tuition was $8,070 in the 2012-2013 academic year, students in Nevada paid an average of $4,953. This is one of the lowest average costs in the U.S.