Idahoans have long valued public higher education, recognizing its importance to the economy and to the desire of Idahoans to provide for their families and get ahead in life. In fact, the territorial legislature founded the University of Idaho in 1889, before Idaho was admitted as a state. Over the past three decades, policymakers wavered from the state’s historic commitment to higher education, as funding from the legislature declined relative to the costs of providing education.
The result has been steeply rising tuition and fees, a growing debt load for many students, and higher barriers to attending college for Idahoans from economically modest families and Idahoans of color. High college cost is a threat to Idaho’s economy at a time when employers are demanding a more educated workforce and when workers with college degrees command far higher salaries than those with only a high school diploma. Idaho’s ability to meet the needs of a modern economy will depend on state investments in higher education institutions and in students who seek a better future through advanced education. To increase the number of Idahoans with a postsecondary education, lawmakers should consider restoring investment in Idaho higher education and ensuring state scholarships keep pace with costs and are well-targeted at students facing financial barriers to higher education.
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