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State Board OK's Increase in Student Fees
LEWISTON - When the Idaho State Board of Education emerged from its executive session
Wednesday, November 14, members sat down for an evening session that would include
statements from students and presidents concerned for their institutions' future. The
board is meeting in Lewiston, at LCSC's Williams Conference Center.
As presidents of Lewis-Clark State, the University of Idaho, and Boise State University
reported on their progress and activities to date, they did so in the face of looming
budget cuts for at least the next two fiscal years. State revenues have fallen short of
predictions and many state agencies have to revamp operating plans quickly. On Tuesday,
Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne announced an additional 1% holdback on all state budgets.
The announcement came on the heels of a 2% holdback called for in August. The spending
cuts are directed at the state's fiscal year 2002 budget.
Faced with the prospect of substantial losses in programs and personnel, presidents of
Idaho higher education institutions were anticipating the need to ask the board for
permission to raise student fees beyond the 10% mandated cap.
Students from LCSC, UI, and BSU presented their positions on a potential fee increase as
well. Lewis-Clark State Associated Student Body President Tate Smith delivered a statement
praising LCSC programs and faculty; calling them friends and mentors. However, LC's
student body did not support a fee increase beyond the 10% cap. Smith suggested the state
repeal earlier tax cuts, which figure into the current budget shortfall.
Student representatives from the UI and BSU also stressed a desire to maintain programs
and staff. University of Idaho students came out in support of an increase between 10 and
15%, stipulating that it not go beyond 2003 and differential fees not be implemented.
Boise State students supported an unnamed increase beyond the 10% cap, citing the priority
as keeping faculty. They suggested dropping plans for facility enhancements and looking at
When the presidents took up the issue, Idaho State President Richard Bowen told the board,
"Over 80% of what we spend is on people." He said that looking for ways to cut
back inevitably means "looking at people." Given the current budget
constriction, Bowen estimated needing a 28% increase in student fees to avoid having to
None of the presidents supported having students shoulder the entire burden. Thomas was
hoping to "split the difference" between students and programs, spreading the
cost out over a period of time, but "front-loading" it in order to save
programs. UI President Bob Hoover agreed with that concept, offering an example of that
included a 15% increase the first year, followed by decreasing amounts over the next 4
Hoover noted it would take an immediate 30% hike in student fees to avoid substantial
program losses. He told the board not to be surprised when the university cuts programs
and jobs: "It will be controversial
. It will be difficult," he said.
"You don't lose $26 million in an afternoon and think it's going to be a
Thomas likened the situation to being on a teeter-totter-one of higher fees versus fewer
programs. "This is a wicked problem
It's very complex," said Thomas,
addressing the board on the issue. "Without any increase, we're looking at deep cuts
Boise State President Charles Ruch commented, "My problem is access," saying
they were looking at a situation where students "not only don't have access to
programs that are affordable, but they don't have access to programs because they no
longer exist." He said, "The policy decision will be whether we maintain access
at a higher cost, or whether we maintain access at all."
Because a member had to leave, the board postponed a decision on the issue until a quorum
could be convened on Thursday morning. They resumed their discussion immediately Thursday
morning, taking on the issue of whether to allow an increase beyond the 10% cap and, if
approved, how much it should be. While options such as 35% or 50% spread out over 4 or
5-year periods, had been voiced, the board ultimately voted on General Manning's motion
for a 12% fee increase for the year 2002, followed by 10% for 2003-2004. The vote passed 4
Following the vote, LC and UI students reacted similarly: most had expected the board to
OK an increase. However, one noted that the approved 12/10 percent fee increase over the
next two years would ultimately cost students more than a 15/5 percent split would.
"No one ran the numbers," she said, adding that the latter option might also
have helped to minimize program losses.LCSC administrators conceded that the 12/10
arrangement wouldn't be enough to save programs. "That's not enough front-loading to
mitigate losses to programs," said Vice President for Student Affairs, Richard Meier.
LCSC officials will continue their strategic planning process already in place, meeting
again to discuss options in the wake of the board's decision. "At least we know what
we have to work with. The board sent a clear message," President Thomas said
following the vote.