BOISE – The state Board of Education, charged with steering Idaho universities and colleges as they scrape together budgets for next year, will allow the schools to charge as much as 7 percent more in student tuition and fees.
The University of Idaho, Idaho State University, Boise State University and Lewis-Clark State College went to the board on Monday with proposals to increase tuition and fees by between 5 percent and 9 percent during the next fiscal year to help make up for state cuts to higher education funding.
School presidents lamented the holdbacks that the governor and lawmakers rolled out during the current fiscal year as the state budget continued to shrink amid falling tax revenues.
Idaho colleges and universities were among the biggest casualties, losing about $2.8 million in September, another $11 million in December and $4 million in February.
The schools scrambled to trim programs, cut temporary instructors, eliminate vacant positions and, in some cases, rely on scant reserves to make up for the shortfall.
“It has been relentless,” said Steven Daley-Laursen, interim president at the University of Idaho.
Legislative budget writers have already reduced the higher education budget for the next fiscal year, cutting 5.8 percent in state spending on public universities.
University and college budget writers told board members they needed the tuition and fee increases so they could still offer students the classes they need to graduate on time.
“We’re not trying to add anything, we’re not trying to enhance any of our operations,” said Chet Herbst, vice president of finance at Lewis-Clark State College. “What we’re trying to do is just stay in the race.”
But in a state where college students now pay about 30 percent more in tuition and fees than in 2004, board President Milford Terrell said he was reluctant to increase the cost of higher education to help make up for a bad economy.
“We’re all hurting at this point, all of us,” Terrell said. “But I want everybody to understand students cannot take the brunt of the appropriations that you may or may not have received this year.”
The board agreed to a Boise State proposal for a 5 percent increase, but trimmed the requests submitted by UI, Idaho State and Lewis-Clark State.
Lewis-Clark State requested the largest increase at 9 percent, a proposal the board lowered to 7 percent. The board approved 6.5 percent increases at Idaho State and UI.
The current full-time, in-state student cost per year at Idaho State is about $4,664. It’s $4,296 per year at Lewis-Clark State, $4,632 at Boise State and UI.
Under the board’s decision Monday, the costs to those students will increase by $232 to $304 per year.
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