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Idaho Gets D- For State Support Of Higher Education

Young Invincibles

A national group working to engage young people on issues like education and health care gives Idaho a D- when it comes to state support for higher education.

Young Invincibles was founded in 2009 on the heels of the recession as a way to boost engagement and elevate millennials' voices on health care reform. Since then, the group has taken on college affordability and helping 18 to 34-year-olds understand how the state budget process directly relates to tuition rates.

Policy and Research Manager Tom Allison says while his group gives Idaho a D- for overall higher ed support, the state gets a failing grade on state aid to students and spending per student.

The organization finds that Idaho “contributes less than 2 percent of its higher education budget to student aid.” Allison says their report card weights need-based aid more than merit-based aid.

“That’s to incentivize state budgets to support their lowest income students and the students who need the most help to pay for school,” he explains.

When it comes to per-student spending, Idaho spends $6,546 per student and the state “has cut funding for higher education by 30 percent since the recession.”

The Idaho Statesman reported last year that state lawmakers cut funding for colleges and universities by 26 percent between 2010 and 2012.

As StateImpact Idaho reported in 2013, in-state tuition is on par with other regional institutions, but Young Invicibles gives Idaho a D+ for tuition citing a rapid increase in cost.

“It’s gone up 30 percent since the recession and that’s about double the rate of inflation,” Allison says. “So if you’re a family trying to save money for a college education and you have tuition going up twice the rate of inflation, it’s going to be really difficult to prepare.”

Allison adds the average cost of tuition at one of Idaho’s 2-year schools has ballooned 57 percent since the recession.

He says it’s critical for policymakers and budget writers to take a deeper look at the economic impact of student debt on the economy. Countless articles have been written on millennials delaying adulthood because of the recession’s impacts on job prospects and tuition costs.

“In order for Idaho and the rest of the country to stay competitive, we’re going to need to equip and prepare our students with a quality, affordable education,” Allison says. “The fact that student debt has doubled in the last five or six years and tripled in the last decade is going to catch up with us.”

Find Emilie Ritter Saunders on Twitter @emiliersaunders

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