President Henberg: Private colleges ease Idaho's budget woes
2011. 01. 13.
Over the next several weeks, Idaho's legislators will face difficult decisions regarding how to address a projected budget shortfall of $340 million during the coming fiscal year. How can we save enough money or find new revenue to bridge a gap constituting 14 percent of the state's current budget? Passionate debate over a variety of proposed solutions is certain.
In these challenging times, Idahoans can be thankful for the largely unnoticed but important role played by The College of Idaho and the state's other private institutions of higher education in reducing pressure on the state's budget. Nonprofit colleges and universities accomplish this vital task by educating many of Idaho's most outstanding students – and future public, business and intellectual leaders – at virtually no cost to state taxpayers.
How important are Idaho's private, nonprofit colleges and universities to the state's fiscal well-being?
One of the major elements of the state budget is higher education, and rightfully so, since Idaho must encourage more of its young people to continue their education past high school. Yet education is not inexpensive; it requires an investment in faculty, facilities and services. The state's public four-your colleges and universities receive more than $230 million in annual state appropriations. During fiscal year 2009, that support translated to more than $9,200 for each full-time student.
Investments in public institutions of higher education must continue if Idaho is to retain its bright young minds, but these overburdened colleges and universities cannot do this alone.
Thanks to the generosity of our alumni and friends here in Idaho and throughout the country, The College of Idaho and our sister institutions provide an outstanding educational experience. And we do this with no state dollars beyond a small amount of financial aid awarded to students who choose to come here.
Based on per-student appropriations to the state's public colleges and universities and our record fall enrollment of 1,055 students, The College of Idaho is saving Idaho taxpayers approximately $9.7 million this year. And, most importantly, our private colleges and universities achieve this with an impressive record of graduating students on time and with the tools for lifelong success.
At The College of Idaho, for example, 92 percent of first-time students who remain continuously enrolled here will graduate in four years, and our four-year graduation rate is more than double that of any public institution in the state. Graduating in four rather than five or six years saves on tuition bills and living expenses. That's a difference of tens of thousands of dollars for college graduates who launch careers a year or even two years earlier than their counterparts.
Our success in educating the state's most promising young minds results from our commitment to fostering close interaction between students and outstanding professors, and a distinctive liberal arts curriculum that enables students to chart their own educational path. College of Idaho students enjoy an education that is both broad and deep, graduating with the knowledge and adaptability to compete in a changing world.
As legislators consider how to best solve Idaho's fiscal challenges, I encourage them to support access to higher education by maintaining the funding for financial aid programs such as the Robert R. Lee Promise Category A and Category B scholarships that enable our young people to pursue their dreams. Though hard financial decisions must be made, our legislators' most important duty is to ensure the state's future success. There is no more certain path to this success than making sure the next generation of Idahoans is equipped with the knowledge, wisdom and character this state needs.
The College of Idaho