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Eye On Boise

Nellis: Higher ed ‘even more important’ to Idaho in tough economic times

Duane Nellis, president of the University of Idaho, tells lawmakers that higher education is even more important to the state during times of significant economic difficulty. The UI has taken $22 million in budget cuts in the past two years, and more cuts loom. (Betsy Russell)
Duane Nellis, president of the University of Idaho, tells lawmakers that higher education is even more important to the state during times of significant economic difficulty. The UI has taken $22 million in budget cuts in the past two years, and more cuts loom. (Betsy Russell)

University of Idaho President Duane Nellis said the U of I has seen $22 million in budget cuts just in the past two years, and that doesn't count additional ones lawmakers are now mulling, or the elimination of $10 million for a dairy research center project. "These budget reductions do have an impact on our academic programs and on the state," Nellis told the Legislature's Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee. So far, the UI has discontinued 45 programs - eliminated 35 degree programs, and restructured 10 others. It's also established four new ones in targeted areas, he said. There have been hiring and travel freezes, and UI has cut 77 positions and deferred maintenance and equipment purchases. "I've been on record as stressing higher education's impact to the state's economy," Nellis told JFAC. "HIgher education is even more important to Idaho when the state is facing these very significant economic difficulties."

An economic impact study showed that last year, the U of I contributed nearly $1 billion to the state's economy, Nellis said. "That's almost 2 percent of the state's economy." He said, "The University of Idaho must innovate in these challenging economic times. ... We're doing just that. Our focus is on what we do best, making people successful, our students as they prepare for their lives as citizens and our staff and faculty as they share and advance knowledge that our students, state and world needs." One focus for the university is increasing research, he said, with submitted research proposals for out-of-state funds so far this year up 31 percent, or $44 million, from this time last year. He also touted the accomplishments of the UI College of Law, and said the U of I is working toward offering law degrees in Boise. Nellis said enrollment at UI is on the rise, and of entering freshmen at UI, the average GPA this year was 3.38, and 82 students had 4.0's. More than a third were the first in their families to go to college.



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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