BSU continues Community Impact Program despite its budget shortfall

Sean Hunter, director of Boise State’s Community-based Educational Outreach program, explains details about the Community Impact Program.

PAYETTE COUNTY - Education has taken a hard hit from the novel coronavirus COVID-19, and it’s not just limited to K-12 education. According to Mark Wheeler, dean of Extended Studies, Boise State University is expecting a revenue shortfall between $50 million and $100 million. Despite the financial difficulty from the pandemic, Boise State is continuing to develop its Community Impact Program.

The program’s advisory team met via Zoom on May 7, with Sean Hunter, director of Boise State’s Community-based Educational Outreach program, conducting this meeting. He said the program in Mountain Home already had its first enrolled student prior to the meeting.

Wheeler reaffirmed Boise State’s commitment to the Community Impact Program, despite its revenue projections.

“We’re going through with this, because this is important,” he said. “The president [Dr. Marlene Tromp], herself, said ‘We’re gonna do this because this is what communities need.’ This will be a beacon of hope for Boise State and for these communities.” 

Wheeler emphasized the need to reach out to potential students of these programs, expressing that he hopes every community involved will “own that program.”

Associate Dean Pete Risse praised those in participation for adapting to the situation revolving around COVID-19, especially being locked out of their physical offices in March.

“That’s been a very interesting experience and this Zoom call that you’re working on … pretty much sums up how we’ve been getting our work done lately.”  

Risse said the calls have been helping improve curriculum development and planning for a return to classes in the fall, saying “we’re ready.”

“President Tromp is one hundred percent still here in terms of [hammering down how] we’re going.”

According to Carl Melle, new program planning manager for Boise State’s eCampus Center, the Payette program remains primarily focused on meeting needs in community health systems. He adds that these programs are intended to allow students to layout their own plan forward.

“If Legos were a college degree, I think it would be the community impact programs,” said Melle, referring to the intended flexibility. “Students are going to be able to pick and design what works for them and what works for their communities.”

Melle said that funding for the Community Impact Program comes from existing funds, which were redirected to the program. No new funding was needed, he said.

Until the Idaho State Board of Education certifies the programs, Boise State has complied with requirements to hold off on issuing official certificates, according to Melle.

“We’re being very careful with our word choice and that these programs of study are what we’re ushering forward for approval,” said Melle. “Once the state approves these certificates, we do have the ability to retroactively award those certificates.”

In the meantime, Melle wrote in an email on May 15 that credits earned through the program may be applied to “various” programs of study.

“For example, credits earned in Payette’s focus on Community Health Systems can be applied toward an online Bachelor’s in Applied Studies, Multidisciplinary Studies, or Public Health,” said Melle.

To help students with the cost, Boise State has announced dedicated scholarships for the program. According to Melle, this reduces tuition up to 50% — up to $175 per credit up to $5,250. No application is necessary for students enrolled in the program, but they must reside in a community identified through the program (Payette County for the Payette program, etc.).

Melle said that up to $50,000 will be available for each community.

Hunter asked participants in this meeting to refer potential students for the program by email during the meeting, with several submitting names of graduating high school seniors and individuals considering a career change.

Moving forward, Risse reminded those on the call to stay positive about the future.

“When you’re in a time of uncertainty, keep going forward. That’s what we’re doing.”

Courses will be taught in seven-week sessions, two per traditional semester, and are to be offered year-round according to Melle. The program is still anticipated to launch this fall.

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