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College: Appropriations down, needs up

Pocatellan Robert Kimber, center, shares a laugh with ISU President Arthur Vailas, left, and ISU Foundation President Arlo Luke at the Stephens Performing Arts Center in Pocatello. (photo/Mark Mendiola)


Mark Mendiola
Eastern Idaho

Emphasizing that higher education helps drive economic development, Idaho State University President Arthur Vailas said during his recent “State of the University” presentation that the state’s colleges and universities still need substantial financial support from the Legislature to cope with increasingly tight budgets.

“Appropriations continue to decline,” Vailas told business, government and education leaders at the ISU Stephens Performing Arts Center. “The state always should have a role and continued responsibility in support of education.”

ISU’s health profession departments treat 40,000 patients a year, but Idaho still does not have a medical school, he lamented, pointing out that the state’s rural communities are the most underserved in the United States in regards to health care.

Tuition and fees totaling $71.76 million in Fiscal 2012 were the largest revenue source for ISU, edging out state appropriations that totaled $70.59 million. Grants and contracts amounting to $55.6 million were the third largest slice of the Pocatello university’s budget pie. ISU has submitted $164.3 million in grant proposals for Fiscal 2012 compared to $108.3 million submitted the previous year to help fill funding needs.

“The competitiveness of getting outside support is more and more challenging,” Vailas said, noting federal stimulus funding has disappeared and budget earmarks are gone. “Expenditures have grown as well.”

ISU’s full-time equivalent fall 2012 enrollment was up 2.1 percent this year at 11,251 students, but total unduplicated student head count was up 3.4 percent at 19,284 students and undergraduate head count was up 4.5 percent at 14,205 students.

Total non-resident students increased 4 percent, but total international students increased 29 percent. Jesse Kiboko, immigration advisor with ISU’s international programs office, said ISU’s 700 international students – representing 58 countries or about 3 percent of ISU’s total enrollment – spent about $1 million to enroll at ISU. Their numbers are expected to double to 1,400 by 2014, Kiboko said.

ISU’s total degrees and certificates awarded in Fiscal 2012 were up 6 percent, with 33 percent of the degrees awarded in Health Professions, and 18 percent in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines. Forty-nine percent of the degrees were bachelor degrees; 21 percent, master degrees; 15 percent, associate degrees; 8 percent, technical certificates, and 7 percent, doctorates.

ISU’s in-state and out-of-state tuition totaled $5,416 and $17,032, respectively, lower than what is charged at Montana State University, North Dakota State University and Northern Arizona University, Vailas said.

“Everybody has participated in trying to keep tuition at affordable rates,” he said, describing the process as painful as various departments share the burden of fiscal responsibility. “When the economy is doing well or not, tuition goes up.”

Noting that the United States has fallen behind in maintaining its infrastructure nationwide, Vailas estimated ISU has deferred $400 million in maintenance to reduce costs. “ISU increases have been a lot less over time while other universities are going in the reverse direction. … We are one of the few universities reducing the debt.”

Citing examples of ISU faculty securing major funding for specialized projects, Vailas noted the U.S. Department of Energy granted Dr. Eric Burgett $2 million to develop advanced radiation detectors and measure fuel inside nuclear reactors, and the U.S. Geological Survey gave Dr. Nancy Glenn of ISU’s Boise Center Aerospace Laboratory $546,723 to assess fuel volumes in fire-threatened areas and landscape management after fires.

The Alsam Foundation also granted $500,000 for an ISU College of Pharmacy laboratory and research in Meridian. The Idaho Museum of Natural History has received $1.5 million in new research grants and $200,000 in new donations.

ISU’s excellence in accelerator technology, biomedical science and engineering, energy and environmental research, health care and energy systems technology has garnered national and international attention.

The number of ISU students taking online courses surged from 5,291 in Fiscal 2011 to 6,436 in Fiscal 2012, and credit hours generated by online courses went from 28,468 to 36,461 during that same period. Online students went from 12 percent to about 25 percent of ISU’s enrollment in a year, Vailas noted.

“ISU led the charge in a different kind of change – dual enrollment,” he added. “We are the leading research institution in the state in the early college experience.”

High school students engaged in dual enrollment with ISU rose from 1,434 in Fiscal 2011 to 1,699 the following year, accruing 10,543 credit hours, up from 8,644 the previous year.

“The university continues to make a significant impact not only in the state, but also globally,” Vailas said. “We were hit with a great economic downturn, but ISU continued to prosper in even the most difficult times.”

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