Idaho State Board of Education could be reaching point of saturation on tuition

State colleges are being pushed to take another look at their programs.

broberts@idahostatesman.comJuly 17, 2013 

Idaho's State Board of Education is taking a new tack to try to improve higher education cost efficiencies.

But don't look for quick relief for Idaho students under siege from ever-rising tuition.

Between fall 2003 and fall 2012, tuition rose 81 percent at Boise State University and 86 percent at the University of Idaho, according to Ed Board figures.

Universities explain they are reacting to the state's dwindling support for higher education.

Idaho's Ed Board wants the state's universities and Lewis Clark State College to prioritize their programs. Presumably those at the bottom of the list could be candidates for elimination. Others low on the list could be considered for consolidation, said Don Soltman, Ed Board president.

The board recognizes the problem of shifting costs to students year after year, with the potential effect of limiting access by students who can't afford Idaho's tuition, at the same time the state wants more students to get a post-secondary education.

So when will the state board - which approves university tuition requests - tell Idaho colleges it won't keep allowing tuition increases? When does it tell universities they are going to have to find money someplace else, or retrench?

"I'd like to say that we are at that point now," Soltman told the Statesman's editorial board Tuesday. "This prioritization process that we've asked all the institutions to go through focuses a little bit on that. We (haven't) said no tuition increases next year. But if they want to approach the prioritization process with that in mind, I think that would be a good starting point."

Prioritization may not yield much in the way of tuition relief when the board sits down to set student fees again next April, because the schools are not likely to be far into the process, Soltman said.

Bill Roberts: 377-6408, Twitter: @IDS_BillRoberts

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