BY BILL ROBERTS
Having big increases while state funding climbs could backfire, a board member warns.
Boise State University students will pay $348 a year more to attend school beginning this fall.
That’s not as bad as it could have been.
The State Board of Eduction on Wednesday pared BSU’s 6.1 percent proposed increase, which would have cost students $384 more a year, to 5.5 percent.
Total tuition for Idaho students at Boise State will be $6,640 a year.
Tuition increases approved at Idaho’s three universities and Lewis-Clark State College are among the lowest in several years.
Still, college tuitions have continued to rise in Idaho nonstop for more than two decades.
The University of Idaho asked for a 4.7 increase; the board trimmed it to 4 percent. Students will pay $6,784 a year, up from $6,524.
Idaho State University received its requested 3.5 percent increase, which will raise tuition $222, to $6,566.
Lewis-Clark State College tuition will increase 2 percent as requested, up to $5,900 a year.
The trim to Boise State’s request wasn’t enough for Rod Lewis, a board member who insisted that large tuition hikes send a bad message to the Legislature. Lawmakers are constantly criticized that funding for higher education is slipping, forcing increased costs onto the backs of students.
If schools seek large increases while the state puts more money into colleges, lawmakers will say “you are just going to increase the fees the way you have in the past anyway,” Lewis said.
Relations between lawmakers and educators seemed to warm slightly this year, Lewis said. “I am approaching this from a very cautious perspective,” he said.
Board member Milford Terrell, who wanted the full 6.1 percent for BSU to help keep good faculty, said students have financial aid to help them with college costs.
“Financial aid is alive,” Lewis said. “It comes in the form of debt.”
BSU sought the increase to help cover raises for that portion of campus staff not covered by pay increases coming from the state’s general fund. The school also wanted money to cover costs associated with hiring faculty to meet the state goal of getting postsecondary degrees and certificates for 60 percent of Idahoans age 25 to 34 by 2020.