University of Idaho President Chuck Staben told lawmakers in his budget presentation this morning, “The U of I has made great progress as an institution. … My presidency remains focused on growing U of I’s enrollment and leading an improvement in Idaho’s college-going culture.”
Staben told the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee that this year, 37 percent of new freshmen at the U of I are first-generation college students; and 40 percent of students are Pell grant-eligible, “indicating serious financial need.”
The U of I offers $25 million in annual scholarship support to its students, Staben said, “the most in Idaho.” He said that “helps these students succeed and demonstrates our commitment to affordability.” He also praised the governor’s request to increase the state’s Opportunity Scholarship program by $5 million, bringing it to a total of $15 million a year. “Cost is the most common perceived barrier to entering college education, and this scholarship can help,” Staben said.
“At a time of declining enrollment nationwide, the U of I’s enrollment increased for the second consecutive year,” he said, “including an increase in our resident study body. We moved past 12,000 total students for the first time since 2012,” he said. “We are a growing, thriving institution.” Participation in dual-credit programs is up 23 percent, he said.
Staben also touted first-year student retention rates, which he said increased to 82 percent this fall. “That’s the highest rate in Idaho,” he said, echoing a claim a day earlier from BSU President Bob Kustra, who said BSU has hit 80 percent.
“When our students graduate, they find that a Vandal education positions them for lifelong success,” Staben said, including higher earnings in a state with lower salaries.
JFAC members had lots of questions about why Gov. Butch Otter didn't recommend the university's top budget requests for next year, including the second phase of a library expansion and additional supports for students facing mental health issues, and how that relates to the governor's higher-ed task force recommendations; I'll have an additional post on that back-and-forth shortly.