Our View, University of Idaho: A checklist for school's new president

May 3, 2013 

The University of Idaho.

IDAHO STATESMAN FILE

The University of Idaho has tremendous selling points for anyone applying for the presidency. It's the state's land-grant university and a top-flight academic research school. The "college" atmosphere and environment are second to none, and Moscow is a wonderful community.

Those are some of the things the State Board of Education likely will use in recruiting candidates. It seems that a person hired for the U of I presidency would want to stay on the Moscow campus for many years, or into retirement.

But the job has been a revolving door for the 10 years since Robert Hoover resigned. The university has gone through six presidents (including four interim presidents) in that time.

There are good reasons why presidents leave. Hopefully, the state board will be telling candidates about some of the challenges ahead of time. Applicants need to know:

• State support for higher education has dropped like a rock, as it has throughout the nation. At one time in Idaho, universities received more than 85 percent of their funding from the state; today, the funding total is just more than 50 percent.

• Don't count on the Legislature to provide more money, because quite simply, Idaho cannot afford full funding for three universities without massive tax increases. That's not good news for a U of I president who is looking at extensive repair needs with school facilities.

• Universities are likely to continue asking for tuition increases, which makes higher education less affordable and less accessible for Idaho students.

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