The Friday Letter Archive

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Friday Letter 2016-01-08:
New Report Showcases UI’s Economic Impact

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January 8, 2016

Dear Friends,
Welcome to an exciting new year with the University of Idaho. Our family vacationed together, but I am glad to be back in Moscow, rested and ready for a great semester. I often speak to students about the value of a college degree in financial and personal terms, urging them to invest in themselves. Early in the New Year, I’ll speak to committees of the Idaho Legislature, and I’ll urge them to invest in the University of Idaho, as a way to ensure and enhance its many economic and societal benefits.

I’d like to begin 2016 by sharing a new report by Economic Modeling Specialists International (EMSI) (link) , a leader in economic modeling based in Moscow, showing just how much UI contributes to the economic well-being of Idaho. The EMSI report gives us a global view of the university, showing that UI’s economic impact is varied and far-ranging. The university generates economic activity through research that benefits industry, through operations across the state and through delivering a transformative education to students. Our new report shows a strong surge in total annual impact – $1.1 billion. That amounts to 1.9 percent of Idaho’s economy, as measured by Gross State Product (GSP).

What specifically drives this impact? Operations spending, including our 3,000 full- and part-time employees, is a part of the story, as is research spending. However, the majority of the impact, some $782 million, comes from Vandal alumni. That is the direct result of former students taking their skills, perspectives and experience to Idaho employers. Vandal graduates are earning higher wages courtesy of their UI degree, they are helping businesses reach new levels of output, and they are putting more money from those higher wages back into the economy.

To understand the university’s impact in this way is essentially to assess our role in workforce development. That’s a key part of what we do as an institution, and this report shows that our performance should give us a lot of pride. Creating opportunities for students to live up to their potential and contribute to organizations and communities across the state is the central piece of UI’s economic impact. It’s also at the heart of our land-grant mission. While there is more to the university than a dollars and cents analysis shows, we should be pleased that the leadership and commitment that is our heritage and our future can be so convincingly demonstrated in economic terms.

The University of Idaho, our state’s public, land-grant institution, offers outstanding return on investment. For students, the increase in lifetime earnings they’ll see with their degree is more than $844,200, an impressive 14 percent annual rate of return. For taxpayers considering the merits of supporting our public university, consider that “for every $1 of public money invested in UI, taxpayers receive a cumulative value of $2.40 over the course of the students’ working lives.” The annual return rate taxpayers will realize is 8.2 percent, “a solid investment that compares favorably with other long-term investments in both the private and public sectors.” Lastly, one must consider the social perspective of having more educated citizens – better health, less crime and more employment. These social savings and added income pay off for the state many times over the initial investment.

Graduates of the University of Idaho know well how their lives were changed. I have met many who have described the new perspectives, attitudes and maturity forged at UI that shaped who they are today. For Vandals, it’s about more than dollars and cents. But we shouldn’t shy away from touting the economic benefits the university brings to citizens and to the state as a whole. In fact, I think that for too long we’ve undersold our critical role in workforce development and in the economy.

Our public university is not an expense, nor is it a luxury. It is an investment, and an absolutely critical foundation for prosperity. We will work hard to strengthen that foundation in the year ahead.

Go Vandals!

Chuck Staben
P.S.: This semester the President’s Office has joined Facebook! (link) Follow me there for updates about the success of our students and faculty members, the progress of initiatives and programs, and the trends that impact higher education and Idaho.


Teaching the Spirit of Giving Back

You’ve probably heard a number of the inspiring stories of alumni, but you may not know that many current students also give back to the University of Idaho. Wil Everly, the UI Student Foundation President, has worked during his two-year tenure to raise student awareness of the importance of philanthropy to the success of the University of Idaho. Each year the Student Foundation encourages graduating seniors to make a Senior Class Gift (this year $20.16), providing students an opportunity to give back to a scholarship or program that inspired them while they were here. “It’s a great way to say ‘Thank You’ and start a tradition of giving back to the UI,” said Everly. For more information on the Student Foundation at the University of Idaho, contact James Brownson, director of Annual Giving, at (208) 885-5369 or (link) .

Yee Family Celebrates Idaho Connections with Two Gifts

To honor his family and his memories of UI, Boyd Yee ’67 has given two recent gifts to the university. Yee recently created the Boyd Yee and Daisy Nebeker Yee Family Endowment in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. “During the last few years, I have been an enthusiastic donor to the Steer-A-Year program headed by Carl Hunt,” said Yee. “This friendship and participation with UI Extension has led to the creation of my endowment and is a way to honor my late wife of 39 years, Daisy.” Yee also donated a valuable Chinese-American artifact and family heirloom, the “Kang Youwei Board,” to the UI Asian American Comparative Collection. Boyd’s father, a Chinese herbalist, previously used the board in his Boise shop. Boyd, who worked for the Bureau of Land Management for 25 years before retiring, currently owns a cow/calf operation and raises quality hay. For more information on supporting CALS, contact Eric Billings at (208) 885-4038 or (link) .

UI Students Honored in Design Contest

Three University of Idaho architecture students were awarded top honors (link) in a “Best Use of Idaho Wood” competition to design a hypothetical marketplace in Moscow, Idaho. The projects were judged on how their designs demonstrated a creative solution and knowledgeable application of integrated design and an innovative use of wood. Caleb Ehly of Sandpoint won the competition and received a first place plaque and $500. William Juarez of Filer and Nick Buckley of Boise earned merit awards for second and third place designs and each received plaques and $250. Ehly’s elegant winning design used five native Idaho woods: Douglas fir for Glulam beams in tension as the main support; lodgepole pine as rigid structure; western hemlock for flooring and finish; ponderosa pine for finishing, trim and detail; and western red cedar harvested from burned forest for charcoaled siding. This is the fourth year the Idaho Forest Products Commission has sponsored a Best Use of Idaho Wood competition to urge professional and student architects to encourage, recognize and support the creative and innovative use of Idaho wood in architectural design.

Pave the Road with Silver and Gold

The University of Idaho Office of Alumni Relations is encouraging all alumni, friends and business owners to help create a Vandal-colored path to Moscow for all those students and their families visiting UI in April for our UIdaho Bound enrollment events (link) . Hundreds of future Vandals will be traveling to Moscow for the April 2 and 23 events, and we want to show them just how vast and proud our network of alumni and friends is. Help us Pave the Road Silver and Gold by flying your Vandal colors around these dates. Know of alumni or business owners along the major routes to Moscow who would like to participate in Pave the Road, or need more details? Contact Whitney Schroeder at (link) .

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