University presidents respond to tuition increases (video)


Tom Schultz, director of the Idaho Department of Lands, told a legislative interim committee that investments from the endowment lands produced a record return in fiscal year 2014.

Tens of thousands of Idaho college students will see their tuition and fees rise starting this fall, but university leaders say raising rates won’t offset reductions in state spending.  Fees for full-time resident students will rise by more than $400 at all four Idaho public colleges and universities, and higher education saw a $32 million reduction in funding from lawmakers this year.

The State Board of Education shaved off the University of Idaho’s requested tuition increase from 12 percent to 9.5 percent.  That move will save full-time students more than $120 a year, but keep $1.2 million out of the U of I’s budget.  The university’s president, Duane Nellis, said that reduction will affect instruction next year, and could lead to fewer professors and course offerings.

U of I has already eliminated 77 jobs to meet lower state funding and stopped offering some low-demand courses.  He said the school will need to find more efficiencies soon.

U of I will need to bring a tentative budget back to the state board in a month.  Between now and then, Nellis and Keith Ickes, U of I’s budget director, need to find another $1.2 million to take out of the university’s spending.  Raising tuition to U of I students 9.5 percent will bring in approximately $10 million to the school, but U of I’s state funding was reduced $19 million by lawmakers this year.  Ickes said raising tuition on students is a short-term fix that doesn’t deal with the long-term problem of the rising costs of providing a college education.

The state board also lowered Idaho State University’s requested tuition increase from 9.9 percent to 9.0.  A drop in state funding and increased costs at ISU led to an $11.9 million budget hole for the next school year.  Reductions and reorganizations will cover $1.9 million of the problem and higher fees for parking on campus will add $450,000.  The bulk of the money to balance ISU’s budget comes from an increased enrollment and higher tuition.  Those were expected to bring in more than $9 million, but the softened tuition increase will lower that total.

“We have indeed made a lot of change and intend to make more despite those impediments,” James Fletcher, vice president for finance and administration at ISU, said during the state board meeting.  “We’re a bargain at Idaho State University.  We’ve been a bargain, and we intend to keep it a bargain.”

Boise State University President Bob Kustra didn’t have his tuition increase of 9 percent lowered by the state board.  He said state board members start to become wary when they see tuition increases of close to 10 percent.

Several state board members told IdahoReporter.com that the reductions to ISU and U of I were based on all their budget information, not just the tuition increase being near the double-digit threshold.

Kustra also said that he hasn’t seen much organized opposition to the tuition increases at BSU.

Watch IdahoReporter.com’s interview with a co-founder of the Idaho Student Association, which opposes the new tuition increases.  More than 30 ISU students came to the Capitol in March to oppose raising rates on students.

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