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Board approves UI law program request with caveat

The University of Idaho’s plan to seek state funding to expand its Boise law program won approval Aug. 16 from the Board of Education, but not without concerns from one trustee that the cart was getting ahead of the horse.

The Moscow university is now offering third-year law courses in Boise and school officials ask the board at a meeting in Pocatello to request $400,000 from the state in 2013 to grow the program to include second-year classes.

The expansion of the law program in the state capital has so far been “a great success,” said Don Burnett, the dean of the university’s College of Law. Burnett noted that board members were convened in Pocatello exactly four years ago when giving the university permission to bring a portion of its law program to Boise.

In August 2008, the university sought to expand the law school by adding a full-fledged branch campus 300 miles south in the state capital. The board downsized that plan to include only third-year law students, saying the university could later propose further expanding legal education.

“So here we are with another installment, so to speak,” Burnett said Aug. 16.

But the funding request didn’t sit well with board member Richard Westerberg

He argued that it didn’t make sense for trustees to approve the funding request when they hadn’t yet given the university permission to expand its Boise law program to include classes for second-year students.

“That’s a separate discussion that ought to come before this board,” Westerberg said.

He proposed the board approve the funding request but make it subject to trustee approval of the law program expansion at a meeting in October. Westerberg’s plan was offered as an alternative motion and approved unanimously.

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