Idaho Lawmakers Question Sustainability of Ever-Expanding Community College Network 

click to enlarge Ada and Canyon county voters rejected a plan in November to build a new Boise CWI campus. - COLLEGE OF WESTERN IDAHO
  • College of Western Idaho
  • Ada and Canyon county voters rejected a plan in November to build a new Boise CWI campus.
Three presidents of Idaho community colleges—College of Western Idaho, College of Southern Idaho and North Idaho College—stood before the Idaho House Education Committee Tuesday morning, trumpeting what they said was an "annual economic impact of $500 million" offered by their institutions to the state economy. They also left a number of lawmakers wondering if the rapid growth, particularly of CWI, was financially sustainable.

"I'm listening to your presentation and when you talk about return on investment, we're certainly getting our money's worth. Having said that, you provide an education that is inexpensive and you can't continue to do this for any significant length of time," said Rep. Pat McDonald (R-Boise). "How do you sustain your operations on $37 million?"

McDonald was referring to Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter's budget recommendation of $37.2 million for the upcoming fiscal year to cover all three community colleges.

"That's what keeps us up at night," said CWI President Dr. Bert Glandon. "We have several challenges, but the biggest question is our sustainability."

Glandon pointed to CWI's rapid growth, with current enrollment of 24,00 students.

"But we only own two buildings. Everything else is leased. And those lease are coming due in two years and they're going up," said Glandon.

In November 2016, Ada and Canyon county voters turned down CWI's request for a $180 million bond to help fund the new construction of a new Boise campus and an expansion of the current Canyon County campus.

"We struggle on a daily basis," said Glandon. "We make some pretty hard decisions and we may need to make some hard decision about what we don't do in the future. How do we reallocate? How do we reshuffle the money we don't have?"
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