Presidents of each of Idaho’s public, four-year colleges and universities say there will be no tuition increases for in-state, undergraduate students next year.
The presidents of Boise State University, Idaho State University, Lewis-Clark State College and University of Idaho announced the tuition freeze Thursday.
It will also include applicable fees, but tuition for graduate students, as well as international and out-of-state students will not be shielded from potential hikes.
In-state students are paying an average of $7,807 in tuition and fees for the 2019-2020 school year in Idaho, according to the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education.
Even though the average tuition in the state is the sixth lowest in the country, ISU President Kevin Satterlee said a college education can still feel out of reach for a lot of Idahoans.
“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,” Satterlee said.
But some schools have already been feeling squeezed. University of Idaho, for example, faces a projected $22 million budget shortfall by next fiscal year.
U of I has begun offering voluntary retirement and separation packages to faculty and staff and has sought to contract some custodial and grounds workers.
Despite that, U of I President Scott Green said he still feels his school can absorb the hit.
“But it won’t be that without some pain,” Green said. “Whenever you’re going through change you need to reorganize, you need to become more efficient, you need to find ways to balance your books.”
The tuition freeze also comes in the face of a potential 2% budget cut floated by Gov. Brad Little (R), who applauded the move in a statement.
“When we make tuition affordable, increase access to scholarships, and push for efficiencies at the universities, the result is a strengthened workforce and more opportunities for Idahoans to improve their lives,” Little wrote.
It’s unclear which parts of their budgets each school will cut. While Little says he wants to spare K-12 education from any cut, public colleges and universities are on the chopping block.
Plans outlining these cuts are soon due to the state Division of Financial Management. Some have said they won’t fill vacant positions and will reduce spending on travel and training for employees to help keep their books balanced.
Idaho State Board of Education member Andrew Scoggin said the move isn’t a bargaining chip to help build good will with state legislators, who ultimately decide each school’s budget.
“This has never been about politics. This has been about running their institutions at the highest caliber,” Scoggin said.
The higher education budget in Idaho has routinely garnered opposition from some lawmakers. The libertarian Idaho Freedom Foundation has also recently called on colleges and universities to freeze tuition, though Idaho State Board of Education members and university presidents say they’ve been working on this issue since the spring.
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