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Eye On Boise

LCSC president highlights ‘very, very critical needs’

Lewis-Clark State College President Tony Fernandez addresses legislative budget writers on Wednesday morning. (Betsy Russell)
Lewis-Clark State College President Tony Fernandez addresses legislative budget writers on Wednesday morning. (Betsy Russell)

As education budget hearings continue this week, Lewis-Clark State College is first up this morning, with Idaho State University and Boise State University to follow. LCSC President Tony Fernandez told the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee that enrollment at the Lewiston college dipped about 4 percent this year, but is still up almost 30 percent from 10 years ago. “We meet the needs of approximately 6,000 students every year,” Fernandez told lawmakers. “Most of them are in academic programs.”

LCSC’s general fund support from the state fell sharply from fiscal year 2009 to 2012, and has since been rising, but still falls well below the ’09 level of more than $15 million; state funding accounted for 37 percent of LCSC’s revenue in 2013, down from 46 percent in 2009. In that same time period, student fees have gone from 22 to 28 percent of the college’s funding, while federal student aid, including Pell grants, has risen from 14 to 17 percent.

“We do have some budget challenges,” Fernandez told lawmakers. “The state of Idaho may not be a very, very rich state, but it is rich in human resources, and we need to leverage those resources as much as we can. … We have some very, very critical needs.”

Those include boosting salaries, he said. Some job candidates are now declining even to come to LCSC for interviews, due to the low pay compared to other colleges. Getting salaries up to average through tuition and fee increases alone would require a 20 percent increase for students, Fernandez said, and LCSC isn't willing to do that. “We need increased student access,” he said. “And we have to maintain a safe infrastructure. … Some of the oldest buildings that are still being used by a public entity are on our campus.”

In addition to funding for raises, LCSC requested just under $1 million to add 14 positions next year, including faculty and advisers; Gov. Butch Otter recommended $350,000. The college also requested $1.25 million for deferred building maintenance and repairs; Otter didn’t recommend funding.

LCSC was established by the Legislature in 1893 as Lewiston State Normal School, with teacher education as its main mission. That is still among its primary emphasis areas, along with social work, nursing, business, arts and sciences, justice studies and professional-technical education.

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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