A letter to the Idaho Legislature from the Associated Students of University of Idaho 

Some of the most important and insightful things we obtain through our experiences at the University of Idaho are opportunities to interact with those different from ourselves, gain wider perspectives, and broaden our view of the world as it is. Students at the University of Idaho are immersed into new ideas, cultures, ways of living, and perspectives on and off campus. We take courses on critical thinking, philosophy, communication, economics, science, and more to enhance our view of others and of the world. The Associated Students of the University of Idaho (ASUI) have long held a commitment to providing the best possible experience throughout every student’s educational journey. We strive to support students in all aspects of life and to lift student voices. The Associated Students of University of Idaho come to you, the Idaho State Legislature, asking for support of higher education during the legislative process to create meaningful outcomes at the University of Idaho. 

The State Board of Education (SBOE) increasingly makes progressive changes to help prepare University of Idaho students for a life and career after college. More recently the SBOE has stepped forward and provided a new outline of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion statements for Idaho Schools in proposed Board Policy III. K. This proposed policy states, “Each institution shall recognize and appreciate that every member of its community harbors unique values, beliefs, and ideologies, and that these characteristics reflect an individual’s life experiences, shape aspirations, and constitute ways of life.” While a second reading of the policy has not yet occurred, SBOE has shown that diversity, equity, and inclusion is a priority in Idaho education. 

The University of Idaho, as an institution, has also made strong commitments to ensure more students have positive experiences with their commitment to diversity and inclusion. The University’s diversity statement reads: “The University community values people of diverse, cultures, classes, races, ethnicities, sexes, gender identities, mental and/or physical abilities, citizenships, nationalities, sexual orientations, religious backgrounds, ages, epistemologies, academic disciplines, veteran status, life experiences, and identities.” The ASUI Senate body has also made commitments to improve student experiences on campus by passing legislation and resolutions through our legislative process. Our legislative body has passed resolutions recognizing LGBTQ+ History Month, Women’s History Month, Indigenous People’s Day, and expanding the SBOE Diversity and Inclusion statement. 

Our ever-changing economic environment is moving corporations forward as well. The largest employers in Idaho, many of which seek graduates from Idaho colleges and universities, are making steps forward in equity and inclusion. One of Idaho’s largest employers, Micron, states: “At Micron, our mission is not accomplished unless our solutions enrich life for all, not just for some.” Micron CEO, Sanjay Mehrotra, has also stated, “we leveraged the power of Micron’s influence in the communities where we live and work to advocate for greater social justice and safety globally.” Movements such as those from Micron are not isolated because commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion are shaping a new era of business and education. 

The Council for the Advancement of Standards (CAS) in Higher Education evaluates programs and services provided by colleges and universities to enhance student success. The areas subject to CAS standards include academic advising, financial aid programs, veteran and military services, student conduct, equity and diversity units, and more. The standard for diversity, equity, and inclusion requires that units address systems of oppression and provide inclusive, accessible educational environments. Accredited institutions have more access to federal funds and student financial aid. Degrees from accredited universities are more valuable to industry professionals looking to hire quality graduates. By participating in accreditation, universities continually evaluate program performance to ensure students and taxpayers are receiving the greatest possible return on investment. Access, diversity, equity, and inclusion make up a vital piece of accreditation standards that provide students with a higher quality education. 

The Idaho State Board of Education, The University of Idaho and ASUI are helping move students forward in education by making them well-rounded, highly employable graduates. Our commitments and statements above are just small gestures that symbolize a greater move towards a better higher education environment. Further, all our offices and spaces that support students continue to show a great need for both financial and administrative support. 

Over the last three years, the University of Idaho has committed to providing a top-tier educational experience at a low cost to students. While it is no secret that the University of Idaho has faced financial perils in the past few years, University administration has implemented financial changes to improve efficiency. Student fees play a key role in funding student programs and are set by a student committee. Many offices and departments are supported by funds allocated by the University, and student services often work through a mixture of student fees and other resources. Student resources are provided by teams of professional faculty and staff that support a variety of students and are funded through multiple sources. $96.73 of student fees are dedicated to Diversity and Equity units, making up only 9% of all student fees. The current fee breakdown for our student resource departments can be found in the sources section for your review. While our diversity and equity offices receive a small portion of student fees, they provide quality resources that help retain and recruit students to the University of Idaho. As retention and recruitment falls across the state and the country, programs that make students feel supported like Idaho’s equity and inclusion programs are more important than ever. 

The Fall 2021 Enrollment Report is attached below for your review. There were 6,861 undergraduate and 11,303 total students enrolled at the University of Idaho in Fall 2021. The University welcomes over 464 international students from 59 countries. In 2020, only 38.2% of Idaho students enrolled at higher education institutions. This percentage declined 7% over the last year. Only 18% of adults over the age of 25 have a bachelor’s degree in Idaho, compared to our neighboring states of Montana and Utah which lie at 23.3% and 21.6% respectively. While Idaho’s go-on and retention rates are declining, students who make meaningful connections on campus within their first year are more likely to stay in college and return for their second year, which is why our equity and inclusion programs are crucial to the long-term success of the University of Idaho. 

Idaho, like the rest of the country, faces a growing population of minority students and communities. The University of Idaho’s student population is over a quarter minority students, most of whom identify as Latinx or International Students. This large section of the student population has resources across campus specific to their unique experiences. These offices, including the Office of Multicultural Affairs, 

College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP), the Native American Student Center, and many others, provide advanced support to all students, but especially to students who identify within minority communities. Retention within our Diversity and Equity units are strong and support University initiatives. 100% of students using LGBTQA Office services re-enrolled last semester. Other offices like the Office of Multicultural Affairs, TRiO, and CAMP also have near 100% retention rates. All specialty services and support systems provide another branch where students feel connected. Offices such as those listed above as well as Fraternity and Sorority Life (including the Multicultural Greek Council), the Honors College, Student Athlete-Advisory Council, and other student groups provide academic and professional support to students. Our involved students on campus have higher grade point averages, contribute more to the community, and have higher percentages of job placement immediately following graduation. ASUI encourages use of these resources by all students at the university. Studies have shown that long-term contact and collaboration among neighborhood, school, and community groups may be the best way to reduce prejudice. Others have found that school environments that expose people to broad ethnic diversity teach them to understand and value those differences, directly addressing the damage caused by prejudice and encourage perspective taking and empathy. By offering a variety of resources we further our goal of producing well-rounded, highly employable graduates. 

It is our strongest held belief as the Associated Students of the University of Idaho that providing resources at every stage of the higher education process makes for high quality students. Along with the Idaho State Board of Education and the University of Idaho administration, the Associated Students of University of Idaho are focused on improving our diversity, equity, and inclusion programs to educate all students and support our most successful student resources and programs. We believe that student support programs benefit students and the university by preparing students for their future. We hope that you, as an integral partner to our university, support ASUI’s move towards a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable learning environment. Our relationship with the Idaho State Legislature is one of the most important that we maintain. We cherish the long-held partnership the State of Idaho has had with the University of Idaho and wish to continue productive conversations. This vital partnership has helped the University of Idaho become the best value public university in the West for the last two years. As Idaho’s leaders, financially supporting the University of Idaho is one of the most effective ways to support students. We sincerely hope to see your continued support throughout this legislative session and hope to continue our productive relationships. 

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