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Eye On Boise

Vailas: ‘We have to raise the bar’

Idaho State University President Arthur Vailas told legislative budget writers today, “Basically the theme of my presentation is the success of the university, especially ours, is very much impacted by partnerships. … Our partnerships are extensive.” He highlighted partnerships with everyone from the National Science Foundation to high schools to Harvard Medical School, including for innovative medical isotope research. The Pocatello university has “a very large portfolio” in health sciences, he said.

For the coming year, ISU, which Vailas said has more than 17,000 students, requested $3.1 million to “transform remediation, provide summer bridge programs for at-risk populations, support general education through additional graduate assistantships and hire additional science, technology, math (STEM) and health sciences faculty,” in furtherance of the state Board of Education’s goal for 60 percent of Idahoans ages 25-34 to have completed some type of higher education by 2020. Gov. Butch Otter recommended $1.1 million. “Our students who are graduating are not well-prepared going on to college,” Vailas told lawmakers. “The point is that we have to raise the bar.” He said financial aid and scholarships also are key.

ISU also requested $86,500 for occupancy costs for its new anatomy and physiology labs building in Meridian, which the governor recommended funding; and $3.75 million for deferred building maintenance and repairs, which Otter didn’t recommend.

While touting the university’s successes, Vailas told lawmakers, “We need to be diligent and ready for surprises. I don’t need to remind you of the huge deferred maintenance that we all have. … It’s something that we have to watch.” Sen. Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, told Vailas he wanted to “compliment you as you’ve put that institution on sound financial footing.”

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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