LCSC nursing faculty will grow by 3.5 positions
Lewis-Clark State College will receive funding for 3.5 faculty positions in the Nursing Program after the State's Joint Finance Appropriations Committee approved a substantial increase in money for nursing programs at Idaho universities to boost the number of nursing students around the state.
The money is intended to help ease a nursing shortage.
In budgets approved Tuesday for the state's two community colleges and its four-year colleges and universities, lawmakers added nursing faculty positions and created slots for an additional 200 nursing students around the state.
LCSC is expected to be able to handle an additional 30-35 students with the faculty increase.
"All we hear is a need for more nursing," said Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Post Falls, who noted that north Idaho newspaper want ads are filled with job openings for nurses. "We obviously aren't meeting the need yet there."
Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter has recommended funding two new nursing education buildings in next year's budget but didn't recommend any new faculty. A state nursing task force had recommended substantial increases both in faculty and their pay.
Rep. Margaret Henbest, D-Boise, a nurse practitioner, said she appreciates the addition of the faculty and the governor's proposal to build the two nursing education buildings.
But she said the state still hasn't addressed the issue of inadequate salaries for nursing faculty, which has caused Idaho to lose teachers to other states and made new positions hard to fill.
"That's a looming problem that we potentially are making worse by increasing seats and building buildings, and at some point we are going to have to deal with that," Henbest warned.
Overall, the budgets approved by the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee showed a 6.9 percent increase in state funding for community colleges, and an 8.4 percent increase for the four-year colleges and universities, bringing state funding for four-year schools to $264.2 million.
Budget bills still require the approval of the House, Senate and the governor, but they are rarely changed once the committee sets them.