Several Idaho colleges and universities, including Boise State, have announced a tuition freeze that will prevent tuition rates from rising during the 2020 fiscal year. The freeze will only apply to in-state undergraduate students.
The Idaho State Board of Education and Idaho university presidents made the announcement in early December 2019. Debbie Critchfield, president of the Idaho State Board of Education, stated that tuition increases need to occur less frequently than they currently do and made a pledge with university presidents last year to uphold that idea.
“As a Board, our number one priority is holding down tuition costs while still providing quality education and support students need to stay on campus and graduate,” Critchfield wrote in a press release.
Many Idaho students and families are paying more of the costs to operate these higher education institutions than in previous years, according to Critchfield. This results in a rapid tuition increase during each fiscal year.
“Forty years ago, state funding covered 88% and tuition revenue paid seven percent of that cost,” Critchfield wrote. “Today, the numbers are nearly even. State funding covers 51% of costs and tuition revenue pays 47%.”
State funding for higher education has decreased greatly over the years which also contributes to consistent tuition increases. Critchfield explained funding has decreased by 6% since the beginning of the last recession in 2008.
“We are grateful for the state’s continued investment, but when we have discussions about
funding for higher education in Idaho, we must start with the fact that funding has not yet recovered to pre-recession levels,” Critchfield wrote. “The effects of the last recession on higher education are no different than they were on public K-12 education. However, while restoration of operational funding has been underway for K-12 the same is not true for higher education.”
While the tuition freeze is good news for in-state students, the Boise State administration could be looking at a very unclear 2020 budget. Along with the tuition freeze, Gov. Brad Little requested state agencies prepare for a 1% budget cut during this fiscal year.
Tuition increases provided Idaho universities with 16 million dollars for the 2019-20 year. Without that extra income and a mandated 1% budget cut, the university is left to makeup the deficit.
“What we want is equitable funding for our students as compared to other universities in the states, and we’re behind them currently in terms of per-student funding,” said Tony Roark, the interim provost for Boise State. “So this is not anything that we welcome; we don’t relish it at all. However, it’s not an uncommon occurrence unfortunately whether that you’re talking about the state of Idaho or any other state in the union. We need to keep it in perspective and realize that 1% or 2% cut in the grand scheme of things could be much worse.”
Chair of the President’s Leadership Council and Idaho State University President Kevin Satterlee said the goal of the freeze is to promote higher education and address rising tuition costs.
“Our students in Idaho deserve an education that’s going to challenge them as individuals, inspire them to make positive change in our communities and ultimately, they deserve an education that will better their life,” Satterlee said. “Every student that would like to pursue that should have that opportunity. To do this, we must begin in earnest to address the issue of higher education affordability.”