BOISE — All of Idaho’s public college and university presidents got a chance to address the Legislature’s joint budget committee during last week’s education budget hearings, and some had lessons for the lawmakers. Among them:
Idaho State University President Kevin Satterlee shared two stories with the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee: one of a student who by traditional measures is considered a success, and the other of one who, by traditional measures, is considered a failure. The first went through college and graduated in four years; she had parental support if she finished in four, but not if she took longer. She graduated and was able to go to work in her field but found that she didn’t like it and wasn’t happy with her degree choice; she’s now working part time outside her field, as a bank teller. By finishing in four years with no debt, that student is considered a success by traditional measures, Satterlee said, but in reality, the university failed her.
The second student took seven years to finish her degree. She started full time but found she needed to drop to part time and work full time in order to avoid piling up debt; she had no parental support. When she finally graduated, she was happy with her degree. “A student from rural Idaho who found her path, working in a field she loves, debt free. That is a success,” Satterlee told the lawmakers, “a success that will not show up on our four-year graduation rates, and in fact a statistic that will be held against us because she didn’t.”
“There’s an entire population of Idaho students that if they are told to go full time and finish in four, they are more likely to stop out or drop out than they are to complete,” Satterlee said. “So while I’m excited about our efforts and I’m excited about our change in graduation rates, to me it’s more important to make sure we are finding ways to move students through the pipeline, help them be successful.”
JFAC co-chair Sen. Steve Bair, R-Blackfoot, told Satterlee, “I appreciate those two stories. It shows, to me, that we need to watch for other indicators. Is there a good way to measure that seven-year student?”
Satterlee responded, “It’s about measuring progress, and sometimes progress doesn’t come in just the graduation rates.” Universities, he said, need to “get them through at the pace that is best for them.” He said the data is very clear that “students having to move through in four, will lead to dropouts, and that’s the concern.”
University of Idaho President Chuck Staben, who made his fifth and final presentation to lawmakers, was asked for his “parting advice” on the state Board of Education’s proposal to shift to an “outcomes-based funding” model for allocation higher ed budget increases; Gov. Brad Little opted to pass on that in favor of another year of study and review. The new model would allocate funding based on degrees and certificates completed, rather than enrollment.
Staben said, “So outcomes-based funding, as you probably know, was the primary line item request from the state board, and all the presidents supported that line item. Outcomes-based funding is an allocation method, an alternative to the enrollment workload adjustment,” that attempts to focus on outcomes like student graduations. “I think outcomes-based funding is a fine method. I happen to think enrollment workload adjustment is also a fine method to allocate funds to higher education,” though he noted that enrollment workload adjustments has “lost its popularity.”
“The formula could be tweaked,” Staben said. “The governor has recommended study for another year; I’m perfectly fine with that.” He added, “The outcomes that we’re asked to incentivize are ones that we already highly prize,” like students graduating.
However, Staben said, “It weights all students equally. Enrollment workload adjustment, you may recall, puts essentially an incentive limit on the number of non-resident students. ... Each institution has a number of non-resident students they get to count, and I think ours is 200 or 250. ... So enrollment workload adjustment is focused on incentivizing the education of Idaho students. The current outcomes-based funding (proposal) … incentivizes all students equally, resident or non-resident.” He said he’s “personally surprised” that the state would take that approach.
New Lewis-Clark State College President Cynthia Pemberton said LCSC, in Lewiston, is “Idaho’s most affordable four-year institution.” That means students without substantial means can work their way through and change their lives; more than 80 percent of LCSC’s students receive financial aid, and 73 percent are first-generation college students. “I sit here with you today as an example of that,” she said, “as a first-generation, low-income student athlete, actually, who would not be here today if educational opportunity had not been available.”
FULCHER EXPLAINS NATO VOTE
Idaho 1st District GOP Rep. Russ Fulcher, who cast one of just 22 votes against a resolution last week reiterating Congress’ support of NATO, explained his vote in a tweet on Friday. “First, I am not anti-NATO,” Fulcher wrote. “Second, H.R.676 would empower foreign leaders with too much authority by locking the U.S. into the current terms of NATO.”
The resolution, which passed the House 357-22, expressed the “sense of Congress that … the President shall not withdraw the United States from NATO.” It also stated that it is U.S. policy to “remain a member in good standing of NATO.”
Fulcher tweeted, “20+ countries currently don’t pay their dues; in doing so increasing obligations to the U.S. If we remove our own ability to make any changes to our position in the future, we also remove any leverage we could have to hold other nations accountable to pull their own weight.”