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Examining Idaho spending on higher ed & student population trends

Updated: Jul 21, 2023

Higher education is getting more expensive, and both taxpayers and students are being saddled with the cost.

Before it adjourned, the Idaho legislature approved a $353,942,200 higher ed general fund budget. That is the largest amount in state history and represents an increase of roughly 5% from the previous year - certainly understandable in a time of high inflation.

Since 2006, the state's higher education budget has increased 40%, according to numbers we obtained from the state's JFAC.

What is remarkable is the fact that, while Idaho continues to be one of the fastest growing states in the country, the size of its college population has remained stagnant. In fact, it is nearly the same as it was 2006, and actually lower than it was in both 2004 and 2005. Idaho's college population reached its peak in 2012 at 38,509.

"Student support"- which is defined as tuition and fees - "has grown four times the rate of inflation from 1992 through 2021" according to the state JFAC.

In the last Idaho legislative session, proposals were floated to freeze tuition and create a working group to consider a new funding formula. Given the growing, heavy burden on taxpayers and students, it may be time to bring back that conversation.

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