One candidate for the Idaho House is impressed with Boise State’s football team – but not its academics.
Dan Loughrey, Republican candidate for House District 17, comprising parts of central Boise, says that if he is elected to the Legislature in November, he will make it his top priority to make Boise State University (BSU) the main focus of the state’s higher education goals. Officials at some of the state’s other four-year schools aren’t impressed with the campaign rhetoric.
Loughrey, set to oppose Democratic Rep. Sue Chew in November’s general election, says that the state should spend the most money and put the most emphasis on BSU’s academic programs. ”It’s abundantly clear that Idaho does not have the resources to fully fund all these four-year schools,” he said. “It’s high time to recognize that success in higher education must revolve around Boise State University, where half the state’s population resides.” Ada County, where BSU sits, has approximately 380,000 of the state’s 1.5 million residents.
Loughrey thinks the state needs to consolidate its focus to develop a clear plan for higher education in the state. “We need planning, vision, leadership or direction in higher education,” Loughrey said. ”As a result, we have a higher education system that promotes mediocrity, and not excellence. What we have are four universities, with four highly paid presidents and four different visions.”
BSU has risen to the top in the college football world with two wins in Bowl Championship Series Fiesta Bowl games in the past four years. Still, the University of Idaho (UI) in Moscow is the school in the state well-known for its academic prowess. Less than a month ago, U.S. World News and Report ranked UI 153rd among all universities in the country for its academics. Boise State was also recognized by the publication, but only as one of the “up-and-coming” regional universities.
Joni Kirk, spokeswoman for UI, wouldn’t directly comment on Loughrey’s remarks, but said they are typical of those running for elected office. ”Candidates say many things,” said Kirk. ”We’ll let the politics play out how they play out.”
Mark Levine, spokesman for Idaho State University in Pocatello took a more direct approach when addressing Loughrey’s desires. ”It would be totally irresponsible to increase the state’s obligations to Boise State University at the expense at one of its sister schools,” said Levine. ”Idaho State delivers health services not offered at other state schools which are critical – not only to the students but also to those who benefits from the care.”
Bert Sahlberg, director of communications for Lewis Clark State College in Lewiston dismissed Loughrey and his idea. “Everyone is entitled to their own opinions,” said Sahlberg. “I think it’s a comment people can’t take seriously and won’t ever happen in this political climate.”
Loughrey says that even if he wins his race against Chew in November, it wouldn’t mean instant change in the way Idaho funds its higher education. Still, he wants something to be done to improve the college experience for students in Idaho. “Spinning our wheels is not an acceptable plan and mediocrity is not an acceptable vision for higher education in Idaho,” Loughrey concluded.