Group rallies for lower tuition, higher cigarette tax

 


BOISE -- Organizers from stoptuitionhikes.com took to the state Capitol today to rally around their proposed ballot measure that would save Idaho students thousands in college tuition.

"I want them to know that they actually do have a voice, that there is something they can do," said Bill Moran, chairman of stoptuitionhikes.com, "This ballot initiative is a way that citizens can make their own law."

The measure would raise the price of cigarettes by $1.50-a-pack, and add a 12 percent tax increase to other tobacco products.

"So we can take those funds and do something productive," said Moran.

Moran says 80 percent of those funds would go directly to students' tuition bills.

"It would save each university student about $1,550 per year," said Moran.  

The remaining funds would go to community colleges and to the state's efforts to fight tobacco use in Idaho.

"I think it is an economic injustice that we have kids graduating $60,000 in debt," said Moran.
 
The Idaho State Board of Education says it understands students' concerns over the cost of college.

"The State Board of Education is continually looking at the affordability of higher education," said Blake Youde, chief communications and legislative affairs officer for the Idaho State Board of Education. "We know that's a factor for Idahoans when they determine to pursue beyond high school."

Youde says the board supports Gov. Butch Otter in his push for a more affordable higher education system through scholarships and a tuition lock.

"By having tuition locked in at the freshman rate for four years at four-year institutions it will bring a level of financial stability to families," said Youde.

Meanwhile, Moran says that the governor's proposals are a step in the right direction, but there is still more to be done to lower the cost of college altogether.

"Nobody's doing it and I don't know why," said Moran.

The group is in the early stages of gathering signatures for the ballot measure. It will need to collect more than 47,000 signatures by April 30, 2016 in order for the initiative to make the ballot in November.  So far organizers say they have collected about 5,000 signatures.
 


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