Posts tagged: higher ed funding
Representatives of Idaho universities were given an opportunity to respond to the new higher ed funding equity report, and while all praised the work that went into the report, each had a different perspective on the funding equity issue; click below for a full report on the issue from AP reporter John Miller.
J. Anthony Fernandez, president of Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, said, “Whatever system comes out of this work, we hope it would be fair and equitable for all students, regardless of what their choice of school is and what discipline they decide to pursue.” He said, “We have some questions about some of the weights that are given … and the formulas … in the current enrollment workload adjustment. But that's not the issue here. The issue is … fairness for our students.” He added, “Nothing is going to be perfect, we realize that, but always keep in mind the students.”
BSU President Bob Kustra said he's worked in other states where funding equity never was at issue, because appropriate formulas were in place. “I don't think we should lose sight of the fact that we have a formula,” he said. It may not be perfect, he said, but “it works. And the Legislature chose in certain recent years not to fund it, putting in peril certain universities who were growing during these last few years.”
Kustra noted that 71 percent of the new students to enroll in Idaho public universities since 2007 came to Boise State. “We're not here to ask for any more than I think what we rightfully deserve,” he said. “The Legislature did not fund the formula.”
ISU President Arthur Vailas said costs for providing health education programs like those at ISU have grown more than other types of inflation. And University of Idaho representative Marty Peterson noted that UI awards a greater percentage of its degrees in science, technology, mathematics and engineering than other state institutions, and that those programs are more costly to provide.
Mike Rush, executive director of the state Board of Education, said he agreed with Rep. Maxine Bell that it's “certainly the board's job to get this done.” He said the board “didn't ignore” the issue, and did sign on to the 2005 agreement. “They may not have solved every problem, but they've made an effort,” he said. “They've also made continuing efforts.”
The new report from the state Office of Performance Evaluation draws no conclusion as to whether there's inequity or not currently in higher ed funding in Idaho, concluding instead that the state Board of Eduction should determine what really constitutes equity, and that Idaho currently lacks such a definition. “Each institution has a different mission,” said evaluator Lance McCleve. “Each institution has a unique student body that they are providing for.” Funding levels are “expected to be different,” he said, but that “doesn't mean all differences are justified.”
Rep. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, co-chair of the Legislature's joint budget committee, commended OPE for the report. “This is a policy, this should be policy,” she said. “It has nothing to do with funding.” She noted that when the state reached agreement about funding equity in 2005, “At that time we did do some additional funding.” But, she said, “I can tell you right now that there will be no additional money to put in as there was at one time from this effort, so it's going to have to come from the existing funds.” Bell said she thought back in 2005 that the state board was going to be examining standards for equity and following up on that. “If they'd have done what they said they would do in the ensuing years since 2005, there would be a plan and some equality,” she said.
The Joint Legislative Oversight Committee is meeting this afternoon, and has just received a report from the state Office of Performance Evaluations on equity in higher education funding, long a thorny issue as state colleges and universities have jockeyed for scarce state funds. “It's an issue that goes back for at least three decades,” evaluator Maureen Brewer told the lawmakers, “a deeply political issue.” The goal of the report is to avoid the politics and provide objective information, she said.
Among the findings: Differences in general fund dollars per weighted full-time equivalent student are larger now than they were in fiscal year 2001, when the state last declared the funding inequitable, and also are larger than they were in 2007, when the state officially declared the inequities addressed in a settlement. Further, though there's a perception that the Legislature was to resolve inequities in part by funding an annual enrollment workload adjustment for each institution, that adjustment hasn't always been funded, and even if it had been, “it would not have resolved the differences seen,” Brewer said.
Representatives of the University of Idaho, BSU, ISU and LCSC are here to participate in the meeting.