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UI makes its budget pitch to lawmakers

University of Idaho President Duane Nellis makes his budget pitch to lawmakers on Wednesday (Betsy Russell)
University of Idaho President Duane Nellis makes his budget pitch to lawmakers on Wednesday (Betsy Russell)

University of Idaho President Duane Nellis is making his budget presentation to lawmakers in the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee this morning, and in the 4th floor rotunda, UI displays and a legislative breakfast are drawing crowds. Nellis told JFAC, “The University of Idaho is a nationally recognized research institution committed to student success and academic excellence. And we deliver one of the best educational values in the Pacific Northwest.” He cited the UI’s “numerous national rankings,” and said, “Through your investments, the University of Idaho is providing vital innovation to our state’s economy."

“Recently we were recognized nationally as one of the top veteran-friendly campuses,” Nellis said. “We have a long and distinguished history of educating national leaders in a wide range of fields.” He highlighted research advances and discoveries at the UI, displaying a wood product and passing around screw coated with tiny, high-tech springs that’s a promising development for medical research. Nellis said the UI has attracted nearly $100 million in competitive research funding. Its WWAMI cooperative medical education program with the University of Washington, to which the governor wants to add five seats next year, has supplied nearly 400 doctors who practice in the state, at least one in every Idaho county; Nellis noted that they include Sen. Dan Schmidt, a JFAC member and Moscow physician. The UI was ranked among the top 15 percent of colleges and universities by the Princeton Review, among the “100 best buy colleges” by Forbes and ranked 65thin the nation by Washington Monthly, Nellis said.

Gov. Butch Otter is recommending a 5 percent increase in state general fund support for colleges and universities next year, but the colleges have requested 17.1 percent. Otter’s calling for funding $2.5 million in occupancy costs for new buildings at UI, BSU and ISU; and half the funding, $3.4 million, for a new performance-based funding initiative for all the colleges and universities. Among the budget requests he’s not recommending funding: The $400,000 to add a second year to the UI’s law school program in Boise, which now offers just the third year of law school.

Nellis told lawmakers the third-year Boise program has been “highly successful,” and “better prepares students for their professional interests,” linking them to businesses and government agencies in the Treasure Valley.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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