Eye On Boise

Idaho higher ed: 'More students, less money'

Richard Westerberg, president of the State Board of Education, makes his budget presentation to a joint meeting of JFAC and the House and Senate education committees on Thursday. In higher education in Idaho, he said, the news is
Richard Westerberg, president of the State Board of Education, makes his budget presentation to a joint meeting of JFAC and the House and Senate education committees on Thursday. In higher education in Idaho, he said, the news is "more students, less money." (Betsy Russell)

Idaho State Board of Education President Richard Westerberg told lawmakers this morning that the state board's goal is 60 percent by 2020 - that 60 percent of Idahoans who are ages 25-34 should have some sort of post-secondary degree or credential. "Our society, our global competitiveness and our workplace require it," Westerberg said. Right now, only 31 percent do achieve that. Yet forecasts show that by 2018, 61 percent of jobs will require a post-secondary degree or certificate. "I know you understand how important education is to the success and economic health of Idaho," Westerberg told a joint meeting of JFAC and the House and Senate education committees. "I have great respect for the difficult choices you all have to make."

However, for the past few years, Idaho has cut funding for higher education; Gov. Butch Otter's proposed budget for next year calls for another small cut on top of those decreases. Westerberg said Idaho will have to focus on preparing high school students for post-secondary education in ways that cost less, from dual credit programs, to grant-funded efforts to improve college access for traditionally underrepresented and under-served students, to online learning. When a high school student takes a dual-credit college class, it costs about $65, he said. At college, the same course costs the student $247.

"Doing more with less isn't just a mantra any more, it's a reality," Westerberg said. "That's our world." Higher education has seen a 22 percent cut in funding since fiscal year 2009, he said. "It has had a significant impact on all of our campuses." He added, "All of them are seeing record enrollments - more students, less money."




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Betsy Z. Russell




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