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September 2, 2014

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HIGHER EDUCATION:

Inauguration wasn’t only highlight of whirlwind trip

Led by CSN professor, group visited Liberty Bell, saw Broadway shows

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CARISSA HURDSTROM / SPECIAL TO THE SUN

College of Southern Nevada students were among a group that traveled to Washington, D.C., and beyond. Here, they pose with Rep. Dean Heller, tallest in back row.

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Exhausting.

That was the response several College of Southern Nevada students gave last week when asked to describe a class field trip to the East Coast to learn about the country’s history and political institutions.

The group, led by CSN professor Mark Peplowski, consisted of 24 people, mostly students in his political science class but also including other Southern Nevadans curious about politics.

They heard arguments at the Supreme Court, toured the Capitol, met with elected officials including Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Dean Heller, visited museums, saw the Washington Monument and Arlington National Cemetery, took photographs of the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, saw Broadway shows in New York and stood in freezing temperatures on the National Mall for hours Tuesday morning before watching the inauguration of the nation’s 44th president.

All in a week and a half.

Gathering at a metro station food court Monday night, the day before the inauguration, students were yearning for the warmer climes and slower pace of life in Las Vegas. As they were elsewhere in Washington, crowds at the station were so thick that every spot to sit was snatched up the moment it was vacated.

The purpose of the whirlwind trip, Peplowski said, is to demonstrate that “government is real and approachable. It’s tangible. It’s right there.”

Alysia Peters, 22, got the message.

“Once you’ve actually come to Washington, your whole perspective of our country and the way that it’s run is completely changed,” said Peters, a member of the CSN-based Capitol Club, which encourages participation in politics, government and public service. “This is where it all happens — where our laws are made, where all our presidents live, where our Congress convenes ... What I really appreciated was that every congresswoman or every senator, they take time, they have staff that take care of constituent problems. And that’s really amazing to me — they make sure their community is really taken care of, and that’s what excited me.”

The journey was Peters’ second to the nation’s capital. She traveled there in May 2005 with Peplowski, who serves as the Capitol Club faculty adviser and hosts two East Coast tours each year.

Peters’ first visit to Washington helped her realize she wanted a career in public service and maybe even elected office some day.

“I was born in Northern Nevada and lived in Southern Nevada for most of my life, and there’s plenty of things that need some support in our state, like education, social services,” Peters said.

•••

In a memo this month, the chancellor of Nevada’s public higher education system bemoaned the fact that UNLV receives less funding than UNR.

He gave numbers to highlight differences. Before budget cuts, UNLV was slated to receive $9,233 per full-time equivalent student from the state general fund this fiscal year, compared with UNR’s $11,436.

Those figures, however, don’t tell the whole story.

In instruction and research, UNLV and UNR spend a comparable number of state dollars per student. Figures UNLV provided show that in the 2007-08 fiscal year, UNR spent $102 more on instruction per full-time equivalent student than UNLV, and UNLV spent $91 more per full-time equivalent student than UNR on research.

The inequities, then, are in other areas. UNR has more space, for example, and therefore receives more money for maintenance.

UNR has 200 square feet of space per student, compared with UNLV’s 108, according to the chancellor’s memo. UNLV’s figures show that UNR outspent UNLV by $865 per full-time equivalent student in operations and maintenance in the 2007-08 fiscal year.

•••

In his memo on funding inequities, the chancellor also pointed out that the College of Southern Nevada receives less funding per full-time equivalent student than the state’s three other community colleges. Although grappling with budget cuts is taking precedence over addressing inequities among schools, some higher education officials think state legislators will act in coming years to rectify disparities.

Still, some at UNLV think state legislators will act in coming years to rectify disparities. Their optimism has roots in the shift in political power after November’s elections.

With Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, replacing Bill Raggio, R-Reno, as state Senate majority leader, leaders of both houses of the state Legislature now hail from Clark County.

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