The Friday Letter Archive

A collection of the president's weekly messages to the Vandal family


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Friday Letter 2015-04-16

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Dear Friends,

This week the State Board of Education approved a 3.5 percent increase in undergraduate, resident tuition and fees at the University of Idaho. The increase supports the quality of our academic experience. I am also very aware the increase will have an impact on current and prospective students and their families. As our state’s leading national research university, we walk a tightrope between maintaining quality and providing access to an affordable education.

We clearly needed to invest in employee compensation. Faculty and staff salaries have fallen far behind peer and regional averages. Simply put, we have been losing or failing to attract the talented teachers, researchers and support staff who make UI a premier institution and a great value. This tuition and fees increase — the lowest in 10 years, following the second-lowest last year — will allow us to fully fund the Idaho Legislature’s 3 percent salary increase and invest in our excellence.

It is always our goal to keep our university affordable. A college education is a transformative experience, and our foremost priority is to make that experience possible. College-educated professionals are also the key to the future of Idaho, shaping our economic development and contributing to industries and organizations that make our state great. The State Board of Education’s 60 percent post-secondary attainment by 2020 goal recognizes the power of a college degree, and we are committed to doing our part.

Our university works hard to maintain access to a world-class education. New initiatives include changes in our Go Idaho! scholarships for Idaho residents and our Discover Idaho scholarships for out-of-state students. High school students with a 3.0 GPA now qualify for merit-based support, in addition to other scholarships for which they might qualify. We know those students can succeed at our university. Aid opportunities like that are part of the more than $20 million in support that the University of Idaho makes available to students every year, often with the help of generous donors.

I know that for many students and families, paying for college can seem daunting, with yearly costs, the prospect of debt and a return on investment that may appear far in the future. Many of our undergraduates, 36 percent, are among the first generation in their family to attend college. But higher education is absolutely the right decision, and UI offers unmatched value. A new financial literacy program (“Better Education about Money for Students,” or “BEAMS”) we’re putting together this fall will offer financial literacy counseling, including information about how debt figures into long-term financial plans. (The average student debt of $26,700 at UI, by the way, falls below the national average.) We are ready and willing to try ideas that make a difference for our students.

Students graduate from the University of Idaho prepared to meet financial challenges — the average starting and mid-career earnings of a Vandal grad are well above those from other Idaho institutions. College graduates not only earn an average of $830,000 more than those without a degree, Gallup polling shows that they also enjoy improved individual well-being and many positive social outcomes. Just as they have for more than 125 years, students can come to the University of Idaho confident that they are making a long-term investment in their future, and certain that we are assisting them by keeping college affordable and manageable.

Chuck Staben portrait

Go Vandals!

Chuck Staben
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Here's the Latest News from the University of Idaho

National Geographic Society Supports Idaho Alliance
In an effort to foster geographic literacy, the National Geographic Society has generously provided ongoing grant funding to nationwide chapters of the Alliance for Geographic Education. Dr. Karen Humes, the University of Idaho geography department chair and professor, leads the Idaho Alliance, which creates partnerships connecting university faculty with K-12 educators, provides world-class professional development opportunities and promotes educational innovation at the state and local levels. "We believe teaching kids about the world and how it works empowers them to succeed and make it a better place,” said Dr. Brenda Barr from National Geographic. “We are thrilled to be working with the UI to make a difference in Idaho." For information about partnering with the University of Idaho, contact Debbie Hornbuckle at 208-885-0533 or
UI Receives $10.6 Million Grant from NIH
The National Institutes of Health has awarded the University of Idaho nearly $10.6 million to support the university’s new Center for Modeling Complex Interactions, which will build UI’s research capabilities and expertise in the area of collaborative modeling. The center will focus its efforts on using mathematical, statistical and molecular models to address biomedical research questions of urgent relevance in the world today. The award is the first phase of a new Institutional Development Award (IDeA) Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) for UI. “This grant has the potential to be transformative for research at our university,” said Chuck Staben, UI president. “In 10 years, I anticipate that this grant will have helped our institution take a leadership position in complex system modeling.”
Youth Water Summit Highlights Local Water Resource Issues
Over 220 students from eight northern Idaho high schools will present their research of and solutions to local water resource issues at the second annual Youth Water Summit at the University of Idaho on April 20-21. Hosted by UI’s The Confluence Project, the Youth Water Summit will showcase what these students have learned after a year of field-based and project-based learning in their watersheds. Students have worked with UI Waters of the West graduate students, The Lands Council and many other local partners to learn about water quality, water availability, snow science, agriculture and aquatic habitats via field experiences and data collection and analysis. “It’s amazing what high school students can do when we give them a little freedom to be creative and challenge them to go beyond typical expectations,” said Audrey Squires, The Confluence Project program coordinator.

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