The Idaho State Board of Education approved a plan Thursday allowing students at state colleges and universities to opt out of fees for activities, clubs and on-campus organizations.

Students who opt out of those categories will receive a refund from their respective school. The new fee structure, developed by representatives from each higher education institution, will take effect in the 2022-23 academic year.

Over the spring and summer, officials evaluated which student fees could be optional and how they’d be labeled.

The newly approved plan has four categories, which include student enrollment, engagement and success, institutional operations, services and support, student health and wellness and student government.

After the vote, Board Member Dave Hill thanked the institutions for working to restructure the original fee system.

“I think we should just recognize that the institutions really did a lot of work here,” Hill said. “They embraced this challenge and took it on in a very positive way.”

In its meeting, the State Board also approved a $2.4 million request from the University of Idaho to replace a 500-ton chiller used to cool buildings on its Moscow campus.

The university’s cooling system struggled to keep pace when a heat wave swept through the region in July, temporarily causing higher-than-normal indoor temperatures. The system uses a reservoir of water chilled to about 45 degrees to regulate temperatures in multiple buildings during warm days.

Brian Foisy, vice president of finance and administration at UI, said the replacement will provide a 12 percent increase in efficiency and save the school around $10,000 per year on electricity consumption.

“The first of these plans focused extensively on the university’s chilled water capacity – our ability to cool critical instruction and research facilities during those hot summer months,” Foisy said. “What we’re realizing is that as the summers only get hotter, the capacity of the system is somewhat limited.”

He recalled the moment last summer when the university was required to implement what’s referred to as “load-shedding protocols,” where staff selectively dropped buildings off the chilled water system to avoid depleting its capacity.

Overnight, the system can recharge. But when temperatures spiked into the triple digits for several consecutive days, demand began to deplete the school’s chilled water faster than it could be replaced.

“The system was not able to keep up with what was a hotter than normal summer,” he said. “It’s one trend that we expect to continue.”

Earlier in the meeting, the State Board approved an online undergraduate program in cybersecurity management at Lewis-Clark State College. The new degree will be available in collaboration with other Idaho institutions and Online Idaho, the Board’s online instruction delivery platform.

The degree incorporates cybersecurity and business management to give students a broader perspective, according to Fred Chilson, interim vice president for academic affairs and dean of graduate studies at LCSC.

UI President Scott Green commented on the new LCSC program and its importance to the mission of higher education institutions across the state.

“This program is really important for not only us but our sister institutions, and it truly is a collaborative effort,” he said. “Our employers tell us this is critical for graduating students to be ready to contribute to our economy right away.”

Palermo can be reached at apalermo@dnews.com or on Twitter @apalermotweets.

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