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Eye On Boise

Idaho matches national trend of falling state investment in higher ed, rising tuition

A new national report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities charts reduced state investment in higher education and rising tuition across the country, with Idaho ranking fairly poorly – the report found that state spending on higher ed per student in Idaho remains 30.8 percent below pre-recession levels, when adjusted for inflation, the seventh-highest in the country. Total state spending per student, also inflation adjusted, dropped $3,290 from 2008 to 2016, the report found, a dollar figure that ranked sixth-highest in the nation.

The report compares the current school year, 2015-16, to 2008, prior to the recession, so it doesn’t include the 8 percent increase in general fund higher-ed spending that lawmakers authorized this year for the next school year, which is fiscal year 2017.

The report found that most states increased higher ed funding from 2015 to 2016, though some were still cutting; Idaho’s inflation-adjusted, per-student increase for that year was calculated at 4.2 percent, which ranked 20th highest in the nation. It also found that tuition has risen sharply from 2008 to 2016, rising 36.1 percent in Idaho with inflation adjustments; that’s 19th-highest in the nation. But on a dollar basis, that same inflation-adjusted tuition change came to $1,810 for Idaho, ranking 19th-lowest in the nation.

This year, the state Board of Education has approved modest tuition increases for next year, but limited them to no more than 3 percent.

You can see the full report online here. Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy Director Lauren Necochea said, “In the 1973-1974 school year, the total cost of tuition and fees at Boise State University was $178 per semester for Idaho residents. In today’s dollars, that comes to $959.20. But current tuition and fees are over three and half times higher than that. This is despite the fact that median household income is only 7% higher than in 1973 when adjusted for inflation. We’ve departed from our historical levels of support for higher education by shifting the costs. Today, Idaho students and families pay much more than previous generations.” 

Nationwide, the report found that tuition as a percent of total cost of higher education grew from just over 20 percent in 1989 to near 50 percent in 2013, dropping only very slightly by 2015.

This year, the amount of student tuition and fees collected at Boise State University exceeded the state general fund appropriation, $92.85 million, vs. $84.75 million, according to state budget documents; while tuition and fees were approaching the general fund total at Idaho State University; the University of Idaho; and Lewis-Clark State College, which saw the two figures drawing very near: $14.83 million in student tuition and fees vs. a state general fund appropriation of $14.86 million.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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