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Eye On Boise

Community colleges have done ‘heavy lifting’ during recession, say they need state’s help now

As the Legislature’s joint budget committee continues a week of hearings on education budgets, North Idaho College President Joe Dunlap told lawmakers this morning that state funding for NIC is now about the same as it was 12 years ago. “When factoring in an inflation factor, we’re actually receiving 32 percent less than what we received in 2002,” he told the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee “The consequence is that the burden of funding has fallen on the backs of students and in-district taxpayers.”

In the past two years, all new programs at NIC have been started with grant money or through reallocation of resources, he said.

NIC’s top-priority budget request for next year is for the “Complete College Idaho” initiative, which at NIC involves adding more than a dozen non-faculty positions to help students enroll and stay in college. It’s part of the state’s 60 percent “go-on” goal, trying to get more of the state’s students to go on to higher education after high school. “We cannot do that without your assistance,” Dunlap told JFAC.

The plan for making a difference in attracting and keeping students, he said, “requires very intrusive and hands-on care of students.” That means more advising staff, remediation, faculty professional development, a disability coordinator and more. Dunlap also said NIC welcomes the governor’s recommended 3 percent in merit raises for employees, but his proposed budget will cover only a third of the cost at the North Idaho college. Otter is recommending just a 1.5 percent increase in state funding for community colleges next year; the colleges requested a 13.1 percent increase. Also scheduled today are budget presentations from the College of Southern Idaho and the College of Western Idaho.

“The community colleges of Idaho have done heavy lifting during the recession,” Dunlap told lawmakers. “However, we have reached our limit in terms of what we can do with current levels of funding, and we want to help you move that needle to the 60 percent goal, and in order to do so, we are requesting your assistance.”

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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