The Idaho State Board of Education opened up a can of worms yesterday when they required the University of Idaho to remove flagship from its mission. For those of you who don't know, the University of Idaho was established before the state of Idaho became a state. It is even written into the state constitution. Not only that, Idaho is the land-grant institution, operating in 42 of the 44 counties. According to Dr. Duane Nellis, the University of Idaho President, the University of Idaho touches 400,000 people through its extension programs. No other college or university in Idaho comes close.
Building upon that, the University of Idaho contributes nearly $1 billion to the state of Idaho economy, that is 1.9 percent of the Idaho economy. That is a tremendous amount of money for a state like Idaho.In 2009 the University of Idaho expended more than $88.2 million in research according to the National Science Foundation. This is the most recent data available. Other universities research spending in the state of Idaho is Idaho State University with $20.5 million and Boise State University with $11.9 million.
Next let's look at the graduation rates of the major universities within the state of Idaho. The University of Idaho had a six-year graduation rate of 53%, 31% at Idaho State University, 28% at Boise State University and 27% at Lewis-Clark State College.
Let's look at the definition of flagship and a Moscow Daily News article does just that.
Former University of California Chancellor Robert M. Berdahl described flagship universities during a 1998 convocation address at Texas A&M University, The Associated Press reported.
"In most cases, these institutions were the first public universities to be established in their states," Berdahl said.
Merriam-Webster's online dictionary defines "flagship" as "the finest, largest, or most important one of a series, network or chain."
Clearly, this evidence shows that the University of Idaho is the flagship university within the state of Idaho. They lead in research expenditures, are the land-grant institution reaching more than 400,000 people throughout the state, have a presence in 42 of the 44 counties, and graduation rates are quite telling.
Not all universities and colleges are the same in Idaho. They all serve different constituents and have different missions. The University of Idaho has the land-grant mission and clearly stands out as the flagship institution within the state.
The Idaho State Board of Education erred when they forced the University of Idaho to remove flagship from its mission. Now is the time to contact the State Board and let them know they are wrong and need to correct it now. If they don't fix this error in judgement, then processes should be started to remove all those members from the Board.
But despite this error, it can not diminish the fact that the University of Idaho is THE Flagship University in the state of Idaho.