Constitutional amendment would allow U of I to charge tuition

Constitutional amendment would allow U of I to charge tuition

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by Kim Fields

Bio | Email | Follow: @KimFieldsKTVB

KTVB.COM

Posted on October 11, 2010 at 10:02 AM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 12 at 9:02 AM

BOISE  -- Voters will have a chance in November to give the University of Idaho more flexibility in divvying up the revenue it gets from its roughly 12,000 students.

There's a constitutional amendment to allow tuition at the school, something that had been forbidden by Idaho's 1889 Constitution.

Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 101 has to do with the way the University of Idaho divvies up money it receives from students.

They've been doing it the same way for the last 121 years, but now they want a change.

Undergraduate residents at the University of Idaho are the only college students in the state who technically don't pay a tuition.

The state's founding fathers made it that way back in 1889.

"The belief being that a free education should be made available to all students," said Marty Peterson, special assistant to the president of the University of Idaho.

But it's not exactly been free.

Instead of a tuition, the university charges student fees which can cost as much as $2,500 per semester.

The money pays for things such as activity and facility fees.  It cannot pay for classroom instruction.

University leaders say that has put them in a bind.

"At a time in the last two years when we've had our state support for higher education reduced by 20 percent we need every arrow we can get in our quiver to help manage our financial resources in the best possible way," said Peterson.

Peterson says because tuition has been constitutionally forbidden, it's limited their ability to move money around more freely -- an ability other universities in the state already have.

"Just as the other institutions are using this as a means of best managing their financial resources, we need to have that same opportunity," said Peterson.

Now, UI President Duane Nellis is making the rounds, insisting to voters across the state that his school needs the same flexibility as Idaho State University and Boise State University.

More importantly, Peterson says if the resolution passes, it  would not change the cost of attending the U of I.

"There won't be any quantum changes in the way we run our affairs, but it's just one more tool that we will have to help make the most efficient use of the moneys that we have," said Peterson.

SJR 101 needs a simple majority to pass.

If it passes, the Legislature would change the wording of the law in its next session.

It would then take affect for the fall semester of 2011.

Associated Press contributed to this story.

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