Despite the television advertising campaign you've seen, bemoaning the low rate of Idaho high school graduates who seek further learning, the Idaho Legislature's commitment to higher education is dropping sharply — something like $64 million from four years ago. (The TV ads for the “Go on” campaign are courtesy of the Albertsons Foundation, by the way.)
Mark Browning, the communications guy for the Idaho State Board of Education, shared that information when he stopped by today for a quick, informal update on the financial outlook for his state's colleges and universities. As with other states, it isn't pretty.
Demand is up, both for undergraduate and graduate programs. A lot of the applications are coming from Californians whose higher out-of-state tuition helps foot the in-state students' bill. California has capped enrollment in its institutions.
Idaho's $5,500 tuition (it will go up after the state board meets April 20 and 21 in Moscow) is relatively low, but Idaho's personal income levels are too. Looking at the ratios, Browning puts it this way. For an average family of four, enrolling a youngster in an Idaho University requires a higher financial commitment than qualifying for a mortgage.
State and federal student aid programs are retrenching, meaning the pattern of college graduates entering the work force — make that the work search force — with a mountain of debt to pay off is not about to change soon.