Student body presidents from the three universities and one state four-year college met with the Senate Education Committee Wednesday to discuss the affects budgets cuts and holdbacks are having on Idaho’s student population.
Kelby Wilson, student body president of the University of Idaho, warned lawmakers that if his university is forced to cut more from the operating budget, educational opportunities will suffer and the school will lose standing within the academic community. Wilson said that the U of I has always attracted the state’s top students, but with reductions to 35 programs and elimination of 10 more, that may not be the case in the near future.
“All the fat from out school has been cut,” Wilson said. “If you cut anymore off the bone, it will be the meat of our school.”
Boise State University student body president Trevor Grigg offered possibly the most intriguing and politically sensitive presentation to lawmakers. Grigg, a budding politician planning on running against Rep. Phylis King, D-Boise, in November’s general election, took the opportunity to impress upon lawmakers his own ideas for budget reductions.
“If we balance the budget, we need to cut the size of government and not shift the cost onto higher education,” said Grigg. He added that as legislators ponder slashing funding to four-year universities, they must consider that cuts result in higher tuition for all students, especially the poorest of the poor. Grigg called on the panel to examine the layers of administration at each university, calling them wasteful and unnecessary.
Clay Long, student body president at Lewis-Clark State College (LCSC) in Lewiston, said the economic climate makes for a good time for students to go to school in Idaho. He reported that his administration is increasing efforts to maximize student retention at the college, which recently celebrated a record enrollment of 4,200 students. He expressed concern over the physical facilities of the college, saying that building maintenance has been pushed back to save money, a move which he feels could negatively affect the standing of LCSC in the future.
Idaho State University (ISU) Student Body President Ross Knight was last to present to the panel. He reported that ISU saw a 15 percent mid-school year spike in attendance figures, a number which he attributed to the struggling economy. Knight urged lawmakers to reduce cuts to education, as he feels that having a highly-educated populous will lead Idaho out of the recession.
Knight added that ISU is increasingly focusing on high paying high-technical jobs, which, with an average salary of $66,000 in the state, will play a key role in the future of Idaho’s economy. According to Knight, approximately 30 percent of the state’s job market will be made up of high-tech jobs.