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President Kustra Highlights Growth, Need for Equitable Funding at JFAC Presentation

Photo Courtesy MCT Campus Wire Service

In his Jan. 21 presentation to lawmakers on the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee (JFAC), Boise State President Bob Kustra focused on how the university has advanced over the past decade and what lies ahead for the state’s metropolitan university. He also highlighted Boise State’s expanding role in the region’s economic development and detailed his continued request for equity funding.

Since fiscal year 2002, Boise State has grown from 17,161 students to 22,678. The university is also a much more traditional campus than in the past, with 66 percent of students coming right out of high school and 45 percent boasting a GPA of 3.5 or higher.

Kustra noted that Boise State is growing academically as well. The number of doctoral programs offered has quadrupled from two to eight, the number of master’s degree programs has more than doubled from 35 to 78, and digital learning has expanded to encompass 13 fully online programs, with plans to add even more as resources allow. Currently, Boise State awards 41 percent of all of the degrees granted annually by Idaho public higher education institutions.

“With our exceptional faculty, staff and student body, and our location in the heart of a thriving metropolitan area, we take pride in serving as Boise’s university and we are poised to reach the next level of achievement,” Kustra said.

To achieve that next level, Boise State is continuing its emphasis on research funding and support of students, community and faculty research innovations through industry and other partnerships. The University’s goal is to move into the Carnegie Foundation classification of “Research University — High Research Activity” by 2014.

Thanks in part to funding from Gov. Otter’s IGEM initiative, Boise State is on track to double its graduates in computer science, a field the Department of Labor estimates has one of the largest employment gaps in Idaho. The university is expanding and restructuring the Computer Science Department, hiring new faculty to address course backlogs, creating an advisory board to integrate industry into the program and increase student interaction through team projects and proposals, and developing a tutoring center to enhance student success.

“With only one new faculty member and one new research assistant this year to date, we have already realized an additional $1,286,000 in external funding,” Kustra said. “There is still much to do, but we are making progress and committed to continual improvement in this area.”

Finally, Kustra addressed the Enrollment Workload Adjustment (EWA), which is intended to help pay for enrollment growth at the state’s four-year colleges and universities, while taking into account the cost differences by program. While calculated each year, it has not been consistently funded. Unfunded EWA from 2008-present totals $10.3 million for Boise State.

Because Boise State’s enrollment has grown the fastest among Idaho’s public universities, it has suffered the most in the years the state did not fund the EWA. Kustra called for help in addressing how far behind Boise State is in funding the growing enrollments at the state’s largest public university when compared to the other four-year institutions.

Failure to remedy this situation, Kustra said, means we are headed for a “perfect storm.” Without additional resources, Boise State would be forced to cap enrollments, continue to enroll at the current rate and risk not offering enough sections, or increase out-of-state enrollments and increase tuition and fees. None of these options is best for our students, he said.

“The state’s appropriation should follow the student wherever they enroll in a public university in Idaho. Currently, that is not happening and we must find a way to fix it and give Boise State students what students at our other universities enjoy in state financial support,” Kustra said.