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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (Jan. 21, 1999)
Higher education bills flood Legislature
■ Senators introduce bills
to restructure the college
system and add Wayne
State and Chadron State to
the NU system.
By Jessica Fargen
Senior staff writer
In the last two days, legislators
have introduced a series of bills geared
at evaluating, changing and increasing
the efficiency of higher education in
Chadron State and Wayne State
colleges would join the University of
Nebraska system under LB631, intro
duced Tuesday by Speaker Doug
Kristensen of Minden. Under the bill,
Peru State College would become a
community college and the NU Board
of Regents would merge with the state
college’s board of trustees. -
Another bill introduced by Lincoln
Sen. Ronald Raikes proposes closing
the 131 -year-old Peru State.
Still another bill, introduced by
Table Rock Sen. Floyd Vrtiska, would
keep Peru State open as a state college
and pump $7 million into its renova
Kristensen said universities in the
NU system would be largely unaffect
ed by the addition of more colleges
under his bill.
He cautioned against university
students and administrators labeling
state colleges as a lower class.
“That is generally said by people
who have an elitist point of view,” he
said. “Their education is not going to
be affected one bit The quality of edu
cation will be the same.”
Kristensen said adding state col
leges to die university system and com
bining their governing boards is a
result of a heightened pressure for effi
cient spending - fallout from the failed
constitutional amendment, Initiative
413, that voters rejected in November.
“Higher education is the largest
user of the general funds, so that’s the
first place you look for some ineffi
ciency,” Kristensen said.
The members of combined govern
ing boards would be elected and
appointed, he said.
Along with merging the boards, the
Professor praises state’s
While many Nebraskans cringe at
harsh winter winds and smoldering
* summer days, Ken Dewey thrives on the
diverse Nebraska weather.
Though Nebraska’s weather can be
extreme, Dewey said, its citizens should
appreciate the sunny days, winter nights
and stormy afternoons he said couldn’t
be found anywhere else.
Dewey, a professor of climatology
and meteorology at UNL, spoke about
Nebraska’s eclectic weather Wednesday
at Love Library’s Great Plains Art
Collection Gallery. The program was
presented by the Paul A. Olson
Seminars in Great Plains Studies.
Dewey, who has taught at the
University of Nebraska-Lincoln for 25
years, decided to come to Nebraska
because of the diverse weather.
“Nebraska is a place that I think is
great if you like weather and climate,”
he said “Sure you can find extremes in
Boston and Chicago, but not as extreme
as it is here.”
The Great Plains region is a revolv
ing door for weather, Dewey said
“Nebraska is one of the windiest
states in the U.SA,” he said. “It is also a
hotbed for tornadoes in the summers
and spectacular blizzards in the winter.
. “What a neat place.”
Nebraska’s geographic location is a
major contributor to its diverse weather,
“The Rocky Mountains are a barri
er to the mild weather, and there are
open doors to the cold north winds and
the mild southern winds,” he said
Dewey also addressed certain
myths about weather that have been
caused by what he said was media hype.
He said El Nino and La Nina have
been greatly blown out of proportion.
If you don’t like
the weather in
a few minutes
professor of climatology and
El Nino primarily affects weather
patterns, but it is not responsible for
freak weather events, Dewey said.
Dewey also explored the validity of
“Global warming is a sensitive issue
hat has become very political,” he said.
“However, in the geological time frame,
it means nothing.”
He said global weather has been fol
lowing a steady pattern.
“Global wanning is mainly a result
of more people and more industry,”
“The weather is not freaky. There is
no upward or downward trend It’s just
the same old same old”
Sheldon Drobot, a graduate geo
science major; said he enjoyed the pro
“I was really interested in he myths
hat Professor Dewey talked about,” he
“I thought (he program) was good
Dewey kept everybody’s interest while
still getting across a tot of information.”
Dewey urged all Nebraskans to be
thankful for the diverse weather.
“If you don’t like the weather in
Nebraska, wait a few minutes,” he said
“It can be hotter than Florida and colder
“There’s no place like Nebraska.”
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Coordinating Commission for
Postsecondary Education would be
eliminated under a constitutional
Omaha Sen. Pam Brown also is
sponsoring a bill that would merge the
two governing bodies. LB561 would
create the Higher Education Board of
The board would have a hybrid
membership of two appointed mem
bers from each congressional district
two elected from each district, one
member elected at large and one
appointed at large.
Brown said die members would not
necessarily represent the university
system or die state college system but
represent higher education as a whole.
“You don’t want each board to
come with a perspective,” Brown said.
“You want people with a perspective
for the whole system.”
The last time the Legislature
restructured the college system was
1989, when it passed a bill that added
Kearney State College to the.NU sys
But the benefits of a more stream
lined governance come at the cost of
Peru’s state college status. Under
Kristensen’s bill, it would become a
four-year community college.
Under Raikes’ bill, Peru would be
Raikes said the goal of his bill was
not necessarily to close the school, but
to stimulate discussion on what to do
with it after a coordinating commission
report laid out three options for the
struggling college: moving it; renovat
ing it; or closing it.
Moving the college to Nebraska
City would cost $96 million. Total ren
ovations for the college would cost
about $20 million.
Raikes said it appeared investing in
Peru was not the best idea.
“I’m convinced that rebuilding
buildings at Peru State is not going to
be the best investment for southeast
Nebraska,” he said.
But Vrtiska said Peru was a valu
able investment. Vrtiska feared that
without Peru, working and nontradi
tional students in that area would never
get a college education.
Vrtiska’s bill, LB650, is co-signed
by 25 senators and would provide $7
million for renovations. Last year the
Legislature appropriated $4.2 million
to Peru for renovations to a science
Vrtiska, whose two children gradu
ated from Peru, said he is committed to
keeping the college and has worked for
it for the last 18 months.
“I’m going to fight for its existence
as long as I’m here,” he said.
Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers said
when money is tight, tough decisions
have to made. Closing Peru is one of
those, he said.
“When a state has limited
resources some things are too high
priced a luxury to be afforded,”
At a time when many senators are
throwing their two cents into changing
higher education, Hastings Sen.
Ardyce Bohlke is recommending that
the state first study the higher educa
Bohlke, chairwoman of the
Education Committee, introduced
three bills Wednesday aimed at evalu
ating the coordinating commission and
redefining its mission, as well as study
ing the educational needs in western,
central and northeast Nebraska.
Bohlke said her bills would help
determine possible inadequacies,
while other bills are geared at eliminat
ing them. Either way, she said, law
makers are making a statement about
how they feel higher education oper
“People are recognizing that we
need to take some kind of action.”
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