By Devin Ramey
In November of last year, Boise State President Bob Kustra announced he would retire on June 30, 2018. With the search for a new president well underway, now is the time to look forward to a new era at Boise State. Kustra has done a remarkable job guiding the University’s growth, athletic programs and national exposure. However, with new incoming leadership, the University should pivot to more immediate and pressing issues. Whoever the next University president is, he or she needs to hold off on further athletic program expansion, allocate funding for new student housing and work with ASBSU on increasing student involvement in the student government. Each of these issues should be on the front burner and will require time and patience before they will be rectified.
Before the last football season started, Boise State announced a wide range of changes and improvements for Albertsons Stadium in an attempt to create a better fan experience. Even with these changes, the attendance for football games is still in decline. Investing more into the university’s top sport may sound like the best option to brings fans back to games, but I am doubtful that even that will change the fact that revenue is dropping. The University will also have to balance this with the costly addition of a new baseball team.
One of the last actions Kustra took as Boise State president was cutting the wrestling program in favor of creating a new men’s baseball team. While baseball is typically more profitable than wrestling, the costs of jump-starting a baseball program may prove costly. The baseball program is expected to cost nearly one million per year. While Kustra hopes the team will be able to pay for itself and wont be a burden on the University, I am far from optimistic this will be the case. The Treasure Valley is fickle when it comes it to sports teams, and unless the baseball team starts winning right out of the gates, generating consistent revenue may be an issue.
Heavy investments into the football program has reaped huge benefits, especially the school’s national brand and enrollment growth in previous years. But the latest round of changes hasn’t produced much positive changes in attendance. Until football attendance is stabilized, and the true costs of the baseball team is found, the next university president should use caution before throwing money at the problem. There are few things I love more than our football team and all of our sports teams, but throwing money at the attendance issue is not the best long-term plan to resolve it.
One of the issues of constant and consistent enrollment growth is the issue of student housing. The university recently finished the new Honors College, but has held off on further student housing, allowing developers to swoop in around the University and build new luxury housing. The average rate for a two bedroom apartment at Boise State is $634.50, compared to the average of $1,317.50 at these luxury apartments around campus. Both the lack of on-campus housing options, and these new luxury apartments have caused issues for students in the past. The costs of these student housing options have been well documented in previous Arbiter articles, and the University has the opportunity to build more on-campus housing that would save students money and unnecessary burdens. There are plans for new, additional student housing as part of the master plan from 2015, but these need to become a priority as Boise State’s student population continues to grow. If the next University president does not make this a priority, then developers will continue to build over the top, expensive luxury housing that well exceeds the city’s average cost of rent to meet student housing demands. Whoever becomes the next University president should jumpstart these housing plans which would be greatly beneficial for the University and all students.
Working with ASBSU
Lastly, the next head of the University should use his or her’s position of power to work with ASBSU to encourage more student participation in their student government. The 2017 election saw an abysmal 1,700 students voting, roughly seven percent of that year’s student body. ASBSU President Sienna George has attempted to involve more student voices for the decision making process in order for better student representation with restructuring. While these changes and restructuring are a welcome change, it is still unseen how they will influence student involvement in ASBSU. ASBSU and the new University president should work closer together on student outreach, where students value and participate in their student government more. If both parties work together to find the cause of this issue, and address it, it would create a more robust student government and better student involvement in University affairs.
There will be plenty of opportunities for whoever takes Kustra’s place to cement a lasting legacy, but there are several issues that need to be addressed soon. New leadership needs to recognize this and act quickly and create his or her’s own path forward for the University.