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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Eye On Boise

Kustra: ‘We have made good use of scarce resources’

Boise State University President Bob Kustra tells lawmakers on Wednesday that the state needs to invest more in higher education (Betsy Russell)
Boise State University President Bob Kustra tells lawmakers on Wednesday that the state needs to invest more in higher education (Betsy Russell)

Boise State University got $73.5 million from the state general fund in fiscal year 2002, when it had 18,431 students, BSU President Bob Kustra told legislative budget writers this morning; this year, in fiscal 2014, it’s getting $77.7 million, with 22,638 students enrolled and 3,757 graduates. “Boise State receives the lowest per-student share of state general fund dollars,” he said, “but produces the highest number of graduates each year.”

“We have made good use of the scarce revenues and resources that are available to us,” Kustra said. He said BSU has responded to Idaho’s changing economy, in which the number of high-tech firms grew 61 percent from 2000 to 2010, and technology now accounts for 17 percent of all wages earned statewide, or $3.4 billion. In the past five years, BSU has increased nursing bachelor’s and master’s degree graduates by more than 300 percent; doubled its graduates in biology, chemistry and pre-med studies; increased mechanical engineering grads by 50 percent; and doubled its computer science BS and MS graduates. “We estimate somewhere in the neighborhood of 600 of our graduates work at Micron right now,” Kustra said.

The university also has focused additional efforts on helping students bridge the gap between college and career, from helping them understand career and job implications of a particular major to having students develop “e-portfolios” of their work through college that can serve as resumes and work samples when they apply for jobs.

"It makes no sense for us to allow there to be cost-ineffectiveness at a university these days,” Kustra said. That’s why BSU is “right smack-dab in the middle of a total review and overhaul of everything we do,” he said, from which degree programs are offered to how disciplines are arranged.

As far as budget needs, Kustra said Boise State needs to address lags in salaries. “Clearly, we’ve fallen behind,” he said. Plus, he said, for a research university, “Our student-faculty ratio is really high. … That’s something we want to deal with.” He said, “There is so much we could do with the funding we’ve requested.”

BSU, like all state universities, has requested funding for raises. It’s also requested $7 million to hire 102 additional staff as part of work toward the state Board of Education's 60 percent goal; Gov. Butch Otter recommended $1.1 million. Otter recommended funding occupancy costs for two new BSU buildings as requested. BSU, like ISU and the U of I, requested $3.75 million to address deferred building maintenance and repairs; Otter didn’t recommend any funding for that. The governor also is recommending $1 million more for the Center for Advanced Energy Studies in Idaho Falls, a joint project of BSU, ISU and the U of I.

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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