Boise State University

You can now save 20% to 30% on a Boise State bachelor's degree. But there are catches.

Want to pursue a degree online at Boise State University? A novel partnership between the university and a local credit union offers a new way for some students to pay for their degrees and save money on tuition.

The Boise State Passport to Education will allow CapEd Credit Union members and employees to pay for online undergraduate educations via monthly subscription fees rather than traditional tuition payments.

CapEd employees and members would pay a fixed fee for online classes each month. They would choose between two subscription tiers: six credits a semester for $425 per month or nine credits a semester for $550 per month. The six-credit tier costs about 20 percent less than full tuition, and the nine-credit tier about 30 percent less.

Both options add up to part-time student status. To be enrolled full-time, students must register for at least 12 credits per semester. A typical course earns three credits.

“We’re taking tuition from the level of a house payment down to the level of a monthly car payment, for many people, and with online technology, we’re removing barriers to a degree regardless of a student’s life stage or location,” Gordon Jones, dean of Boise State’s College of Innovation and Design, said in a news release.

While students must complete an entire four-month course to earn credit, the month-by-month payment makes it possible for students to leave if they need to without having to pay for the entire semester.

Gordon Jones, founding dean of the College of Innovation and Design at Boise State University

Enrollees can pursue bachelor's degrees that do not necessarily fall under traditional majors. Jones, whose college spearheaded the program, called these "concentrated pathways" to degrees tailored for working students seeking to boost or change careers.

The university calls CapEd its inaugural partner, meaning it hopes to partner with other organizations to form similar programs. Jones said Boise State is specifically looking to membership-based associations, as they may allow "greater access for a greater number of Idahoans."

Jones said the program is "not a money-losing proposition" for Boise State despite the discount. For one thing, the online nature of the classes offered will allow the university to take advantage of existing resources such as online student counselors. For another, the partnership eliminates the need for marketing to potential students, as the students are referred directly by CapEd.

CapEd has more than 76,000 members and about 210 Idaho employees. A member must be an employee or volunteer with any facet of the education industry or have a family or household member who either meets those qualifications or is already a member.

“We are honored and excited to be the inaugural private partner with Boise State University to provide higher education to our members and employees that is affordable and available regardless of their location or personal circumstances,” said Todd Erickson, CEO of CapEd.

The university also may look into full-time rates later if the need arises, Jones said.

"It’s our mission and our duty to the people of Idaho to assist them in getting their education as soon as possible," Jones said. "Anything we can do to reduce the cost of education is in our mission. I like to say a lot of people go to places that make their grandparents proud, but we are aiming to be a university that makes their grandchildren proud."

Boise State President Bob Kustra spoke about the program during his farewell address to civic and business leaders on June 11. The State Board of Education approved it this week.

Brandon Rasmussen: 208-377-6486, @brandonrasmus1