Kicking off a week of education budget hearings this morning, Emma Atchley, president of the State Board of Education, offered a sobering statistic to the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee: 20 years ago, Idaho’s colleges and universities received about 13 percent of the state’s general-fund budget. This year, it’s down to 8.6 percent. “No other sector in state government has experienced that level of historical decline in funding,” Atchley said. And just as state funding for higher ed was cut in Idaho during the recession, Idaho colleges and universities saw big jumps in enrollment, she noted.
“We appreciate the efforts of the governor and JFAC in working toward restoring funding to pre-recession levels,” Atchley said. However, Gov. Butch Otter’s budget for next year, while calling for a 3 percent increase in state funding for higher ed, still would leave the colleges $26.3 million below their 2009 funding level. The board requested a 19.4 percent increase next year.