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State cuts shifting NIC funding burden to taxpayers, students

Thu., Jan. 27, 2011

Tuition, property taxes increasingly paying for NIC’s growth

BOISE – Falling state funding for higher education could lead to higher property taxes in North Idaho, state lawmakers were warned Wednesday as they heard North Idaho College’s budget request for next year.

Priscilla Bell, NIC president, said the Coeur d’Alene community college has seen dramatic growth: Student enrollment, measured by total head count, has soared from about 3,500 when she started at the college in 2007, to some 6,700 this spring.

“We’ve almost doubled our head count in the four years I’ve been here,” Bell said. But at the same time, state funding for NIC has been dropping. Under Gov. Butch Otter’s proposed budget, “By fiscal year 2012 it will be at 2001 levels.”

Because NIC is funded by local property taxes as well as student tuition and fees and state funds, the falling state support will affect both property taxes and student fees, on which, Bell said, “We have to rely more and more.”

No decision has been made as yet on property tax levies for the college for next year, but Bell said the college has statutory authority to increase its levy by 3 percent a year, and it’s done so every year she’s been at the college.

Student tuition and fees also have risen every year, though the effect has been diffused because of the college’s shift over two years to a per-credit basis for its tuition.

Since 2001, NIC’s student enrollment has grown by 106 percent, Bell told lawmakers, and property taxes to support the college have grown 112 percent.

The governor’s budget proposal for Idaho’s community colleges next year calls for an additional 1.7 percent cut in state support, on top of the earlier decreases.

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