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New report reviews Idaho college costs

Separate forces are serving to drive the cost of higher education higher in Idaho. The independent, non-partisan, Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy says state funding for higher education is down, while actual costs are going up. And, that comes while the state has set a goal to graduate more students.

In a new report, the Center says one positive trend is that low-income students and students of color are enrolling at greater rates in the state’s four-year institutions. State scholarships were recently bolstered with additional funding, but they are not reaching all the students who face the most financial challenges.

The state’s commitment to higher education funding has bounced around over the decades. Tuition and fees now account for 47% of state funding for higher education, which is up from 7% in 1980. But, state funding dropped from 93% to 54% during the same time frame.

Idaho tuition and fees have grown rapidly. The average, inflation-adjusted cost of a year of education is six times higher today than it was in 1980. The average cost was $1,306 in 1980 and $7,807 today.

According to the Center, Idaho grant aid falls short for students with serious economic barriers. Since 2008, the number of students using federal need-based Pell Grants is up by 14%.

Idaho ranks 44th for state grant aid per full-time undergraduate. The average Idaho undergraduate receives $130 in assistance, while the national average is $820. About 40% of students showing financial need to receive some type of state grant aid.

“It is a prudent moment to examine whether our state investment is appropriate for our desired outcomes. The cost of college is rising even as more families of modest means and students of color are pursuing higher education. Removing financial barriers for college students is a promising strategy for increasing educational attainment in our workforce,” said Alejandra Cerna Rios, policy director at the Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy.

You can see the entire report here.

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