University of Idaho President Chuck Staben wants to freeze resident undergraduate tuition rates next year – if the Legislature commits to fully funding a 3 percent salary increase for faculty and staff. “We only get about 50 percent of the general funds needed to pay for the CEC,” Staben told the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee this morning, according to Lewiston Tribune reporter Bill Spence’s “Political Theater” blog. (CEC stands for "change in employee compensation.") “The rest has to come from a dedicated fund – and that fund is tuition. We're asking the Legislature to fully fund this 'salary gap.' If you do, our plan is to not raise resident undergraduate tuition this year.”
Spence reports that at the University of Idaho, the gap amounts to $1.6 million. For all four-year state institutions of higher education combined, it's $3.8 million. That's on top of the $5.6 million in general funds recommended by the governor. Emma Atchley, president of the State Board of Education, told JFAC that tuition increases will be needed to cover whatever portion of the $3.8 million isn't funded by the Legislature, and they’d come to 1.5 to 3 percent hikes in tuition, depending on the institution. Senate Finance Chairman Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, said the request creates an “interesting dilemma” for JFAC, which typically allocates money only for the general-fund portion of salary increases. If it complies with the request from the colleges and universities, he noted, it could prompt a similar request from other agencies, including the state’s community colleges. Spence’s full post is online here.
Staben told lawmakers that the U of I gets about 30 percent of its funding from the state, and 70 percent from other sources, including student tuition and fees and research grants, with tuition and fees covering 24 percent of the budget and sales and services, such as dormitory room and board fees, covering another 13 percent. “About 80 percent of our expenditures, 75 to 80 percent, is on employees,” he said. “And this has a major impact upon the proposed employee salary increase.”
“We appreciate that the governor has recommended a 3 percent change in employee compensation,” Staben said. “We want to thank him for recognizing the important contributions of our employees. Salary competitiveness is critical to the success of the University of Idaho.” Increasing pay for university employees is a top priority, Staben said. But if lawmakers don’t cover the full cost of the increase, “An increase in tuition fees will be necessary to cover this.”