The Idaho State Board of Education motioned and voted in approval for an increase in tuition for Boise State University, Lewis and Clark State College, Idaho State University, and the University of Idaho on Monday, May 15. All the institutions requested an increase of 5%, with the exception of Lewis and Clark at a 5.6% increase.
From the moment the meeting began at 8 a.m., the gravity of the looming decision ahead was evident.
Kevin Satterlee, Idaho State University’s President, opened the first presentation to the board for tuition request.
“I can tell you, honestly and directly, I struggled with this request,” Satterlee said. “Our leadership team struggled with this request. I know I lost a fair amount of sleep balancing my tertiary duty to the finances of the institution and tertiary duty to access and affordability of our students to get their education.”
The State Board of Education previously enacted a resident student tuition freeze that has been in effect since 2019. Inflationary costs are the main culprit for the proposal for tuition raises.
In April, the Higher Education Price Index (HEPI) released a preliminary forecast report, detailing inflation rates for higher education. There was a 2.9% tuition and fee increase in Idaho and a 3.1% increase nationwide for the 2023 academic year alone, according to records from the State Board of Education
To keep costs in perspective on a state level, Idaho resident tuition is the sixth lowest in the nation, according to a press release from the State Board of Education in 2022.
According to the College Board, the average resident tuition and fees are $8,178. Boise State’s undergraduate Idaho resident tuition is $4,182 per semester, amounting to $8,364 for an academic year. The 5% rise of tuition changes that number to $8,816. It is a $420 dollar addition to the original cost.
Idaho is not immune to the national cost of living increases that directly impact the education system. Idaho ranks #21 in the nation for rising education costs by 40.8% in a ten-year period tracking inflation.
In the last legislative session, Boise State University, Idaho State University, Lewis and Clark State College, and the University of Idaho received $353.9 million in taxpayer money. Idaho higher education is funded primarily through legislative support and student tuition and fees. Unfortunately, the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee budget given to Boise State was not enough.
Boise State’s funding model differs from its other Idaho public universities in that it relies heavily on tuition to finance the basics of sustaining an institution, such as paying staff for example.
Broadly speaking, Boise State staff salaries and benefit increases have been neglected for several years due to unfunded capacities in the Boise State budget. Even state funding cannot cover the necessary support.
Raising tuition will generate around “6.9 million in revenue,” as stated by Jo Ellen DiNucci, Boise State’s Associate Vice President for Finance and Administration. Alongside combating inflation, the revenue will help support overall staff, cover general goods and services, manage structural facilities and fund academic and student programs. The 5% increase of tuition will also apply to out-of-state students.
During the meeting, DiNucci shared that the original proposed tuition increase was 10%, and was voted in favor by the Budget and Fee Committee 8 to 1. During the board meeting, Boise State requested half of what the committee approved.
DiNucci mentioned the conversations Boise State has had in the past about the option to raise tuition.
“Everyone understood how significant it was for students to face additional prices,” DiNucci said. “But they also understood it was financially irresponsible if we didn’t consider raising tuition.”
Despite these fiscal realities, Boise State University President Dr. Marlene Tromp, shared at the meeting that Boise State is determined to support students even with a tuition increase.
“Our aim is twofold as we look forward: to grow scholarship support available to our students, that is a key pillar in our comprehensive campaign and paired with the Idaho Launch Program, we really aim to provide additional support for students. We also aim to continue to grow other resources to take the burden away from students,” Tromp said.
The Idaho Launch Program is an $8,000 scholarship available to every high school graduate in Idaho as a cushion to enroll in a community college or complete other training for the workforce. Starting in 2024, this $80 million scholarship will be funneled through taxpayer dollars.
Boise State is riding on the back of this program to help secure enrollment for future freshman classes regardless of tuition pricing. The debating question is — will it be enough coverage for prospective students who need financial assistance?
Other costs not included in tuition should be noted as well, such as – books, housing, and parking passes. The Department of Transportation announced in an email on Monday that rates for parking will increase, creating another price increase for students outside of the initial raise in tuition.
In an interview with The Arbiter, Kalista Barkley, ASBSU Vice President of Academic Affairs, shared her concerns regarding the rise in costs for students that are already struggling financially.
“To even push tuition 5% it means the ones scraping by might not be able to come back,” Barkley said.“It’s not just about tuition costs that would push someone over. I understand inflation, it’s no secret it’s made everything rise, but wages are not up to par with how housing rent has increased, gas has increased.”
When will students hit a financial breaking point? That remains unanswered for now.
Coming to the conclusion that a tuition raise was the best option for the future was difficult for the universities, as clearly expressed during each presentation from the separate institutions throughout the meeting.
In the meeting, President Tromp and her team emphasized the care they have for the financial needs of students and the affordability of Boise State. It’s a sign of the times that tough decisions will have to be made to ensure that the higher education system in Idaho stays operational as the economic state of the nation is projected to decline with rumors of recession circulating in the media currently.
Regardless, the repercussions of tuition increase will become evident in the next several years.
“I want students to know that the leadership at Boise State does have our best interest at heart,” Barkley said. “They know that there is a struggle and they are trying to do the best they can right now with what they’re given.”