University of Idaho: Higher Education is Promise for the Future

Monday, January 26 2009


Jan. 26, 2009 Written by Tania Thompson BOISE, Idaho – Today, state legislators were urged to support higher education as an investment in the future and as a means to build leadership, not only for Idaho but for the nation. “We understand the difficulties you are facing in determining funding priorities for all of state government,” said University of Idaho President Steven Daley-Laursen in prepared remarks before Idaho’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee. “I would urge you to consider the University of Idaho as an instrument of the people and a knowledge resource you can count on to assist you and our state during these difficult times.” Daley-Laursen discussed the ways in which the university contributes to the state; how the institution is addressing the current economic holdbacks; and how the university is transforming itself to serve the state for the future. “The people of Idaho’s first university have never stopped rising to the great and noble challenge of serving our state,” he said. “We are driven by a desire to maintain and grow our quality, relevance and impact, by our desire to create a workplace where our people are energized by their work, and by a responsibility to be financially solvent, nimble and able to make strategic investments regardless of prevailing economic conditions.” Student quality and stable, increasing enrollments marked 2008, Daley-Laursen reported. The university is home to the highest number of the state’s National Merit Scholars, and the university’s strategic investments in recruitment and retention continue to support a graduation rate that is nearly twice that of any other Idaho institution. Service-learning projects find students civically engaged in communities in Idaho, around the nation and around the world. The University of Idaho is one of only 103 universities in the nation to be classified by the Carnegie Foundation a research university with “High Research Activity,” one of five in the Northwest and the only university of Idaho to achieve this ranking. Daley-Laursen said that in 2008, the university received $92,150,283 “to carry out research that is both beneficial to Idaho’s citizens statewide and enriching to the undergraduate and graduate learning experience.” The university’s land-grant mission reaches nearly all of the state’s counties. Among research examples with Idaho-specific impacts, Daley-Laursen cited:
  • Fire Research and Management Exchange System. Developed by scientists and land managers, it provides a state-of-the-art clearinghouse and Web portal to aid wildland fire decision making to save money, property and human life.
  • Human health. Center of Biomedical Research Excellence has a $9.7 million, five-year award supporting an interdisciplinary team of faculty from biology, math and computer science to study processes affecting human health, like the development of resistance to antibiotics in bacteria.
  • Recycled uranium. An environmentally friendly technology for recovering uranium from the ashes of radioactive garbage, to be recycled back into nuclear fuel. University of Idaho is partnering with nuclear industry leader AREVA on next steps. The recycling plant’s technology may hold the key to recycling the most dangerous forms of radioactive waste.
  • Poverty reduction. With a grant from the Northwest Area Foundation, the Horizons program targets small towns with high poverty rates. The University of Idaho partners with communities like Cascade to create “real world learning for our students, making our research useful, and benefiting rural Idaho’s citizens.”
  • Daley-Laursen also updated JFAC on the university’s strategic planning process that included a detailed review of the institution’s more than 200 undergraduate and graduate degree programs as part of a long-term vision to reduce the institution’s scope and focus and refine its mission. “We are proposing the closure of 41 programs,” Daley-Laursen said. “For example, we would achieve efficiencies and foster faculty collaborations by reducing our College of Natural Resources master’s programs from six to one. We would eliminate Justice Studies as a major – which we found to be duplicative of other majors that we offer.” Tied into academic program prioritization is a universitywide effort to find and “implement bold new ways of working with each other, of structuring our programs, and of utilizing our space, time, technology and fiscal resources.” Daley-Laursen said the Request for Innovations had brought an initial round of 74 proposals for consideration. In addition, the university is pursuing process re-engineering to seek operational efficiencies. In his update on general fund holdbacks, Daley-Laursen reported that the university tries to protect its “faculty’s ability to serve students at the level of quality that our students and their parents deserve, and that you’ve come to expect from the University of Idaho.” In FY09, the 4 percent holdback has reduced the university’s spending authority by $5 million. For FY10, the governor has recommended increasing the base reduction to a total of 7 percent, which will reduce the University of Idaho’s general fund base by $8.8 million below its original FY09 appropriations level. The university had already paused hiring before the governor’s holdback directive and then initiated a hiring freeze; those actions could eliminate up to 80 already-vacant faculty and staff positions. The institution also has reduced travel, and will reduce universitywide operating expenditures by roughly $2.3 million. For general education, Daley-Laursen said, this means a 10 percent reduction in funds to support instruction, student services and administration operations. The university also will reduce capital outlay by 8.5 percent, or $500,000. “These funding reductions will be felt universitywide, by students, faculty and staff at all of our locations,” Daley-Laursen said. In the form of fewer overall programs and offerings for students; limits on the university’s ability to attract and retain faculty and staff; reduction of programs in human resources and positions in facilities management; elimination of three student computing labs, with migration of network costs to students; and reduction of funding for classroom technologies and network and systems needs. “There has never been a more important time for you to prioritize your investment in higher education, the generator of new leaders, new knowledge and new technology. It is your investment in the next generation of Idahoans,” said Daley-Laursen. “The next leaders who will shape the future of this state, who can apply new knowledge and technology to the kind of economic challenges we are facing today and beyond.” This week marks the 120th anniversary of when the Idaho legislature passed legislation creating the University of Idaho. “Thanks to great faculty leaders, we’ve produced Olympians, vice presidential candidates, United States senators, lieutenant governors, leaders in all sectors of society… and one out of five members of this great citizen Legislature--including several of you, six committee chairs, the Speaker of the House, the Senate Majority Leader and several other members of leadership,” Daley-Laursen said. “There is no more convincing case for support of higher education in Idaho, and America than the case to continue building leadership. By your past support we have a legacy of leadership to report. By your continuing support we will guarantee a promise of leadership in the future.” # # # About the University of Idaho Founded in 1889, the University of Idaho is the state’s flagship higher-education institution and its principal graduate education and research university, bringing insight and innovation to the state, the nation and the world. University researchers attract nearly $100 million in research grants and contracts each year; the University of Idaho is the only institution in the state to earn the prestigious Carnegie Foundation ranking for high research activity. The university’s student population includes first-generation college students and ethnically diverse scholars. Offering more than 150 degree options in 10 colleges, the university combines the strengths of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. For information, visit www.uidaho.edu. Media Contact: Tania Thompson, University Communications, (208) 885-6567, taniat@uidaho.edu



    About the University of Idaho
    The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals, and competes in the Western Athletic Conference. For information, visit www.uidaho.edu.