Vailas voices support for higher ed ‘CEO’

Retiring Idaho State University President Arthur Vailas threw his support behind the idea of a higher education “CEO.”

“Higher education, whether we like it or not, has to evolve as a business,” Vailas told the Senate Education Committee Wednesday afternoon.

The $769,500 “chief education officer” proposal may be the most closely scrutinized piece of Gov. Butch Otter’s education budget. Otter wants to spend $500,000 on a consultant’s study — and earmark the rest for a CEO’s salary and benefits. At $200,000 a year, the CEO would be the highest paid employee in state government.

A CEO might not be a cure-all, Vailas said Wednesday, but a CEO could help the state find business efficiencies in the higher education system. Otter and other supporters of the CEO proposal hope to streamline administrative functions on the campuses — and move the savings into scholarships and academic support.

“We have to be brave, very brave,” Vailas said.

The CEO proposal has received mixed reviews. Otter’s State Board of Education and state superintendent Sherri Ybarra support the idea. Retiring Boise State University President Bob Kustra has questioned whether the CEO proposal would really be a money-saver. And on Monday, legislative budget-writers had some pointed questions about the proposal.


Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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