Printed on: January 22, 2013

ISU seeks fund increase for 2014

By Christina Lords
clords@postregister.com

BOISE -- Idaho State University President Arthur Vailas requested a 7.9 percent increase in state funding for the institution during a budget hearing before the state Legislature's Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee on Monday.

Vailas requested $128.9 million in public funds for fiscal year 2014. The Legislature appropriated more than $119.5 million to the university in 2013. In comparison, the state contributed $106.4 million to the university's budget in 2012.

Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's recommendation for the school's state funding is slightly more than $123 million for 2014.

Providing avenues of financial aid for students and deferred maintenance costs remain Vailas' top concerns as the university rebounds from the recession, he said.

The university faces more than $352 million in projected deferred maintenance costs over the next five years. That includes about $64 million in deferred maintenance costs in 2014 alone.

ISU also operates a branch campus in Idaho Falls as part of the University Place complex.

"My point here is that we've never caught up in any way of what is needed," Vailas said.

The school recently had to evaluate closing Colonial Hall, which houses some of the university's College of Engineering faculty and staff, at its Pocatello campus after a large crack was discovered in its foundation, he said.

"We have evaluated every building on our campus to (analyze) ... the life span of each building," he said. "We need to determine what we need to do to make each building functional ... and obviously we look at priorities. We look at the impact of that building on the student."

As state funding of higher education has dwindled in Idaho and throughout the nation, Vailas said it's important to find financial opportunities for students in other ways.

Providing jobs for students throughout the university has been one way to combat rising education costs for students, he said.

"That has increased tremendously over the last few years," he said. "Whenever we add a new position we ask ourselves ... can we employ a student in that position? Can we provide a way to meet a student's needs?"

Vailas' proposal includes new funding for equipment for an anatomy and physiology cadaver laboratory at ISU's Meridian campus.

Vailas stressed the overlap of the facility's uses with other public and private entities, including access for educational, medical and state law enforcement purposes.

"When we do ask for money for (new projects), when we're asking them to give more, we have to make them understand why it's important," he said. "If they don't have a good understanding of that, and don't give us what we need, then we need to make a better case."

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