Boise State University made a final pitch for a school of its own Thursday on the eve of a state Board of Education decision on how to meet the Boise area’s growing demand for engineering education.
Boise State President Charles Ruch appeared before the board to again state his university’s case for an independent engineering college. The board was scheduled to hear from Gov. Phil Batt early today, then from University of Idaho President Elisabeth Zinser before deciding what to do.
Ruch told board members creating a freestanding college rather than expanding University of Idaho offerings in Boise would be a better way to respond to the education demands posed most visibly by Micron Technology Inc.
“It is our conviction that the entire state is best served by regional delivery of high-quality, costeffective, locally administered engineering programs that give top priority to meeting the needs of the three regions,” he said. “Ultimately, we believe that an independent engineering program at BSU is not a matter of whether, but when.”
Ruch acknowledged the impetus for an alternative to the cooperative agreement with the University of Idaho came from Micron’s offer last fall to give the state $6 million if Boise State is authorized an autonomous school.
But he also said his university has had no luck reaching a consensus with the state’s other schools on the issue to avoid what board member and Micron founder Joe Parkinson called “these continuing acrimonious turf wars.”
“We have worked on it,” Ruch said, “but we have not found any solution that fulfills all our needs.”
The newest board member, Dr. Thomas Dillon of Caldwell, questioned why the enthusiasm had waned for the cooperative program.
“Why are we here?” he asked. “What went wrong?”
“There are lots of reasons,” Ruch said. “Perhaps one of the most visible ones is that a major employer in town suggested that the program was not moving along and did not fulfill the obligations that were agreed upon when the program was put together.”
And with state money limited, he said, the kind of community support from Micron and others that prompted Boise State’s pledge to raise $12.5 million in private financing for an engineering building could make the difference.
“It is my firm conviction, supported by pledges of which you are already aware, that a BSUadministered engineering program is better positioned, both in the near term and the long term, to attract the private-sector support that will ensure long-term quality,” he said.
Ruch also dismissed an independent consultant’s report that concluded expanding the University of Idaho program is the most effective option. Parkinson on Wednesday called the consultant’s report “U of I propaganda.”
“I am unaware of anywhere in academic engineering where they have supported the creation of a new program,” Ruch said. “So it does not surprise me that academic engineering says, ‘We don’t want any new kids on the block. We want to hang on to what we have.”’
Insiders expect the board to side with the University of Idaho, but there is talk of the Legislature stepping in on behalf of Boise State anyway.
The governor said that he did not expect the Legislature to dictate a decision.
Batt has said he does not care how southwestern Idaho’s engineering education needs are met. But he also is eager to see that Micron, which is championing the Boise State option, locates its new $1.3 billion semiconductor factory with 3,500 new jobs in Idaho.
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