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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Idaho colleges raise costs again, but less sharply

Students at Idaho’s state colleges and universities will pay more next year, but the tuition and fee increases approved Wednesday by the state Board of Education are considerably lower than the stiff increases of recent years, and board members said the schools are still a bargain.

“We’re still under most of our sister institutions throughout the United States,” said state board member Milford Terrell. “We’re still the best deal in town.”

The state board, meeting in Moscow, voted unanimously to approve tuition increases as requested by state colleges and universities; in some years, the board has shaved back the requests. The schools covered by the increases include the University of Idaho in Moscow, Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Boise State University, Idaho State University in Pocatello and Eastern Idaho Technical College in Idaho Falls.

All the votes were unanimous except on the UI and BSU increases – 6.1 percent and 5.7 percent, respectively – which passed on 5-2 votes, after board member Ken Edmunds of Twin Falls said he worried that state lawmakers expected lower increases. “Regardless of what’s happening in other states, the barrier to our students is significant … due to financial issues,” Edmunds said. He and Richard Westerberg, board president, cast the only dissenting votes.

University of Idaho President Duane Nellis told the board the UI’s proposed 6.1 percent increase is “a very important figure to help us stabilize our situation after four years of cuts.”

Samantha Perez, student body president, said students have been strongly supportive of the plan.

“I haven’t received one verbal or written complaint about the proposal,” she said.

Nellis said even after the increase, the UI’s tuition and fees next year of $6,212 will be far below the average among comparable schools of $8,300.

Annual tuition and fees for Washington State University and the University of Washington are expected to be about $11,000 for in-state students in the fall, for example, and about twice that for out-of-state residents, according to estimates prepared by both schools for the 2012-13 academic year.

Student body officials from the Idaho schools backed the increases. Among their reasons: If the schools can’t hire enough instructors for them to get the classes they need, they can’t graduate on time, and their education will cost even more.

State funding for Idaho higher education next year, while up 8.6 percent from this year, will still lag below where Idaho funded the state’s colleges and universities in 2006; the colleges have been hard-hit by repeated state funding cuts.

Idaho Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna, a state board member, said he’d support the tuition increases, but he objects to using past years’ cuts as justification for future increases. “Everyone’s budgets have been cut the last few years – that’s just the reality that we’re living in,” he said.