Gem State residents can be proud of their land-grant institution, the University of Idaho.
Despite challenges of the past year, the university community has stepped up in a big way to reverse budget deficits and keep enrollment stable amid a once-in-a-generation pandemic.
After back-to-back years of $20 million losses, the university’s audited financial results show a small operating surplus of approximately $900,000 for the fiscal year that ended June 30.
By paying close attention to spending and putting the university first, the operating losses of 2018 ($21 million) and 2019 ($19 million) were reversed in 2020. This result is particularly impressive considering the financial impact of COVID-19 on operations. Year over year, improvements were widespread, coming from nearly all university operations across the state. In short, we not only did what was asked of us for this year, we exceeded it, evaluating every expenditure for the good of the university, the state and our taxpaying citizens.
We also met another $8 million in savings through separation and retirement programs, disrupted the negative trend in our unrestricted net position by more than $4 million and made positive changes to our retirement liability to the tune of $14 million.
That hard work is also reflected in the efforts to maintain an in-person learning environment for our students. We didn’t wait for students to feel sick before testing them. We have tested all Moscow-based students – at least twice – isolated positive cases, quarantined close contacts and made sure our classrooms are as safe as possible. The number of active positive cases has fluctuated but stayed low – an average 1-1.5% of the total faculty, staff and student population.
Early indicators of enrollment were looking exceptional. A 16% increase in applications and 14% increase in acceptances had the university well on its way to an enrollment increase. With the arrival of COVID-19, we ended up with a 3% decline in full-time enrollment. While not what was hoped for, the decline is manageable as it relates to our budget.
We are in a much better place than a year ago, even in the wake of a pandemic. We can now turn our efforts to recruiting the Fall 2021 class, touting our place in the top 6% of all public universities in the nation and recognition as the No. 1 Best Value public university in the West by U.S. News and World Report.
We are a university on the rise. Thanks to the solid financial foundation built by our entire Vandal Family over the past year, we are positioned to come out of this pandemic even stronger.