The Idaho Board of Education recently announced that it would be freezing tuition for Idaho’s in-state undergraduate students next school year in a move to make the state’s tuition costs more affordable.
What makes this gesture especially gutsy or perhaps courageous is that Gov. Brad Little has already asked all of the state’s colleges and universities to cut their budgets.
The fact that Idaho’s higher education system is enacting its first tuition freeze in at least 43 years, meaning the state’s colleges and universities won’t be able to use tuition hikes to offset their budget challenges, is a bold move to say the least considering Little’s decree.
Idaho’s colleges and universities have grown accustomed to meeting their own budgetary needs via tuition hikes and this year’s tuition increase at Idaho State University generated an extra $2 million to $3 million for the school.
ISU now plans to not only cut over $2.4 million from its spending to meet the governor’s request, but to also freeze its tuition.
Idaho already has among the lowest tuition costs in the nation, but our low wages in many cases negate that positive.
The cost of tuition is a big reason why many prospective students in the state don’t go on to college, and Idaho’s gained a deserved reputation through the years for having a large percentage of young people who decide to forego obtaining a bachelor’s degree. They instead join the workforce right out of high school, which in most cases means obtaining one of Idaho’s many low-paying jobs.
Despite the state’s efforts to reverse this trend, only 45 percent of recent high school graduates in the state go on to college compared to the national go-on rate of 67 percent.
This problem puts Idaho at a big disadvantage economically in terms of wooing big companies that provide high-paying jobs.
Idaho’s workforce is known for being largely uneducated because of the large number of state residents without college degrees and this means companies with low-skilled and low wage jobs will often choose to locate here while companies that offer big salaries to the highly skilled workers they require end up going elsewhere.
The tuition freeze announced by the state board won’t fix this problem on its own but it will certainly help because anything that makes attending an Idaho college or university less expensive is a plus.
We strongly encourage the Idaho Legislature to support the tuition freeze and not pull the rug out from under the state’s higher education system by requiring more in the way of budgetary reductions.
There’s been a lot said in recent years about the impact that Idaho’s education system has on its economy.
Most of the state’s leaders now see the direct connection our state’s schools, especially colleges and universities, have to Idaho’s economic future.
The tuition freeze shows that Idaho’s higher education system gets it and we support as well as appreciate the gesture.