Boise State students push for more higher-education funding

Boise State students pushing for more funding.

BOISE -- While much of the focus of Boise State University during football season is on the Blue, there is effort under way among some students to make a big change.

Their focus is on the Idaho Statehouse and with the legislators who decide the funding for higher education.

You may recall, that took a big hit during the Recession - and still hasn't fully recovered.

Josh Scholer, Associated Students of Boise State University (ASBSU) student lobbyist, has been working on their policy platform for a while -  and now that it's in place, his focus is on the Legislature.

For the first time, students are working alongside administration on fixing a big issue: the funding gap between BSU and University of Idaho and Idaho State University.

Scholer has some questions he wants to ask legislators: If today's students are tomorrow's leaders, why the lack of sufficient funding for higher education in Idaho?

"What are we going to invest in if we're not going to invest in the future?" Scholer asked.

Scholer - alongside the ASBSU and assembly of students - created a policy platform that reflects students' views on investing in higher education.

"The number one thing I get more than anything is, 'Why is my tuition so high'," Scholer said.

Looking at the numbers from Idaho's 2016-2017 State General Fund Appropriation, Boise State has higher enrollment at the undergraduate and graduate level than Idaho State University and University of Idaho. In addition, they graduate more students.

Yet BSU is funded thousands of dollars less per full-time student than the University of Idaho, which comes out to a nearly $53 million gap, according to General Fund Appropriation data. Boise State is also funded thousands less per student than ISU - more than $22 million less.

According to General Fund Appropriation per Graduate data, BSU is funded more than $39 million less per student than U of I, and there is an almost $67 million gap between BSU and Idaho State.

"It's not take money from U of I and give it to us, or take money from ISU and give it to us," Scholer said. "It's let's find some money to give toward BSU so we can equitably fund these schools."

"I'm not downplaying the math they did but I think there's a much larger financial image that has to be looked at when you look at cost per student and revenue per student," Idaho State Board of Education spokesperson Blake Youde told KTVB.

Youde says there are a few reasons behind the disparities in funding per student: such as federal and research dollars and grants. He also attributes it to the fact that certain degrees cost more to provide; for example, a science program that requires expensive lab equipment versus a program that is more lecture-based.

"In part, because generally enrollment goes up when the economy isn't doing that well. So enrollment is up at a time when the state may not have as many funds," Youde added.

Another reason is because of Idaho's outdated funding formula: the enrollment work load adjustment (EWA).

Youde acknowledges the need to change the funding approach, which is why the State Board of Education is proposing an outcomes-based formula, based on how many students graduate as opposed to how many are enrolled.

In addition to the formula, the board is asking the Legislature for $10 million for higher education, with the entire amount being distributed based on those who complete their degrees. Youde says this is money the state already has, but will be allocating in a different way.

"I suspect you would see a school like Boise State do very well in that kind of formula," Youde said.

Come January, Scholer says he and Boise State administration will be taking to the Capitol, with the intention of getting a hearing on a bill they will start working on soon.

"I would hate to see Idaho continue to lag behind," Scholer said. "It costs money. But in the end, it benefits all Idahoans."

KTVB reached out to the University of Idaho for their thoughts on the funding gap and why they believe they get more money than Boise State University. They sent this statement:

"The University of Idaho has a mission and mandate by the Idaho Constitution to educate statewide. We take our role seriously and appreciate the state's support in accomplishing this."

Copyright 2016 KTVB


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