April 17, 2013 in Idaho

Idaho approves university tuition hikes

Associated Press
 

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The State Board of Education voted Wednesday to hike the price of attending Idaho’s public universities, sustaining a trend of annual tuition increases yet still keeping tuition costs under $7,000 per year for undergraduates at all four campuses.

The board agreed to raise resident undergraduates’ tuition by 6.9 percent at Boise State University and by 5 percent at University of Idaho. Tuition at Idaho State University and Lewis-Clark State College will jump by 4.5 percent and 4 percent, respectively starting next fall.

Not all university presidents got what they wanted from trustees. For example, BSU requested an 8.6 percent rate hike, and UI asked for 5.9 percent, but the increases are still expected to generate about $10.6 million in additional revenue for the four universities. BSU would get the largest chunk, adding an estimated $8.2 million dollars in new tuition money.

“We certainly understand the role that cost to student must play, absolutely, but obviously cost to student cannot be separated from value received,” BSU President Robert Kustra said in defending the cost increase during the board’s meeting in Moscow. “We analyze that up against the funding we’ve been given.”

The decision from the governing board of Idaho’s public universities marks the 14th consecutive year of tuition increases of at least 4 percent at all four universities. Since 2001, tuition has increased by more than 100 percent at those campuses.

But the increases adopted Wednesday are smaller than previous years. Hikes peaked in fiscal year 2011, when UI, ISU and BSU all raised tuition by at least 9 percent.

Trustee Milford Terrell said this year’s boost is on par with previous numbers.

“The reality is it’s been on a year-by-year situation, and we have stayed fairly consistent,” he said. “I think we have been very logical.”

The decision comes almost a month after state lawmakers approved $465.9 million in general funds for higher education. While that amounts to a 3.8 percent bump from the previous year, it’s still below 2009 levels.

The state funding brings higher education funding closer to 2009 levels, when dollars from the state began to drop off as economic hard times set in. Even so, UI President Duane Nellis said for the first time ever, state money this year will make up less than 50 percent of his university’s total budget.

As expenses have increased, Nellis said tuition has largely made up the difference.

University administrators say the increase will help keep pace with rising maintenance and benefits costs, fund student scholarships and improve academic programs.

“We have a number of required increases including things like utility costs, multi-year contracts that require increases,” Nellis said.

A 5 percent decrease in enrollment this year and a continuing state funding gap has exacerbated financial stress at UI, Nellis said. UI, for example, was appropriated $16 million less in state funding this year than 2009, while total general fund spending at all four schools remains 6.6 percent lower than four years ago.

Kustra said the same is true at the Boise campus. While state appropriations have risen during the last two legislative sessions, BSU is getting $1 million less from the state this year than 2009.

“This was no picnic this year,” Kustra said. “If you look at the total funding, the amount Boise State received is still behind what was on the books and should be appropriated to us.”

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