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Thursday, February 20, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Idaho

Idaho OKs tuition hikes, largely will cover raises lawmakers approved

Idaho’s state Board of Education on Wednesday approved the lowest tuition increases for the state’s four-year colleges and universities in the last 15 years, including a 3.5 percent hike in tuition and fees at the University of Idaho.

Board members said the increases will go largely to cover salary and benefit increases approved by state lawmakers this year, but not fully funded from state funds.

“We know cost is a significant barrier to higher education, so we have worked with our college and university leadership to minimize tuition and fee increases for our students,” said Emma Atchley, state board president. “We are balancing making higher education as affordable as possible and providing the programs students need to be employable, but we cannot expect them to carry the entire burden of additional costs.”

University of Idaho President Chuck Staben offered in January to freeze university tuition next year, if lawmakers would cover the full costs universities will face for the 3 percent raises they approved for state workers next year, including those at universities. Undergraduate resident tuition at the U of I has been rising each year for more than two decades; employee costs take up 75 to 80 percent of its budget.

Lawmakers declined; they’ve made that move, called a “fund shift,” for universities in nine of the past 18 years, but not once since the economic downturn hit in 2008. The budget they approved for Idaho’s colleges and universities next year shows an overall increase in state funds of 3 percent; Gov. Butch Otter signed it into law on Friday.

Staben said Wednesday, “The board and the university share a commitment to accessible, affordable education. This modest increase allows us to maintain quality at moderate costs to Idaho students and families.”

In a series of unanimous votes, the board, meeting in Moscow, approved increases ranging from 1.7 percent to 3.5 percent for undergraduate resident tuition and fees next year. Boise State University, the University of Idaho and Eastern Idaho Technical College all will have 3.5 percent increases. Idaho State University students will see a 3.3 percent increase. And Lewis-Clark State College students will see a 1.7 percent increase.

Atchley said, “We understand the state budget process is one of balancing competing priorities, and we appreciate the support we have received from Gov. Otter and the Legislature. Significant support from the state in the future will be key if we are going to provide education opportunities to meet the 60% goal and the workforce demand in Idaho.”

The state board’s goal is that 60 percent of Idahoans age 25 to 34 have higher education degrees or certificates by the year 2020, but the state has a long way to go to reach that mark. State board members noted that tuition and fees now cover 48 percent of the operating costs at Idaho’s state colleges and universities, though they remain affordable compared to other western states. The U of I gets about 30 percent of its funding from the state.

The University of Idaho released a detailed breakdown of its tuition and fees hike: Resident undergraduate tuition and fees will rise 3.5 percent, or $236, to $7,020 next year; non-resident undergrad fees will rise 3.5 percent or $710 to $21,024; resident graduate students will pay 4.3 percent more, a $340 increase to $8,222; and non-resident graduate students will see a 3.8 percent hike, an $814 increase, to $22,226.

The U of I estimated the increase will give the university $2.7 million in increased revenue over the current year’s budget.

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