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Tuesday, September 17, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Eye On Boise

UI Prez Staben: ‘We seek to serve all qualified students’

University of Idaho President Chuck Staben speaks to the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee on Wednesday (Betsy Z. Russell)
University of Idaho President Chuck Staben speaks to the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee on Wednesday (Betsy Z. Russell)

University of Idaho President Chuck Staben is making his budget presentation to the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, as a week of education budget hearings continues; lawmakers heard yesterday from the presidents of BSU and ISU; today’s schedule also includes a budget presentation from Lewis-Clark State College President Tony Fernandez. You can watch live here.

“We seek to serve all qualified students,” Staben told JFAC. He said the U of I’s current enrollment is 11,372, 93 percent of those full-time students. A third are first-generation college students; 39 percent are eligible for federal Pell grants, which are based on financial need. “We serve a very broad cross-section of Idaho students,” Staben said. “Our graduation rates are the highest in the state among all public institutions.” Fifty-seven percent of students graduate within six years, he said; 80 percent return after a successful first year. The UI has facilities in 42 of Idaho’s 44 counties and on three tribal reservations.

The university’s statewide economic impact is $1.1 billion, Staben said, 1.9 percent of the gross state product. “A great research university, I want to emphasize, is not an expense but it is an investment,” he told lawmakers. He said the UI produces the most doctoral degrees annually in Idaho, and attracts research funding of nearly $100 million a year.

Gov. Butch Otter is recommending an 8.8 percent increase in state funding for Idaho’s four-year colleges and universities. That follows years of stagnant or falling state funding; state funds to the universities have grown just 4.5 percent in the past four years, and an average of just 1.2 percent over the past 10 years. In fiscal year 2012, the universities took a 3.5 percent cut in state funding; in fiscal year 2010, they took an 11.2 percent cut.

Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls, said she heard that Staben tried applying to the University Idaho like a student, and that led to the state’s new direct admissions program; she asked him to tell the story. “I like to do the things that our students have to do, so I went online and applied,” Staben said. “It took me way too long. … But also I realized that most of the questions I was being asked were about information that our rather good longitudinal student data system statewide actually had that information,” things like high school GPA, ACT/SAT score, “home address and things like that. I thought – well, why would we have to provide all that? We already know that. ... That information should be directly shareable in certain ways for the purposes of education. ... I began asking those questions. It frankly didn’t take very long to convince people that that was an idea worth exploring, so that has resulted in the direct admission issue.”

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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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