Boise State President Dr. Bob Kustra should have been happy. He wasn't. Hours after receiving exactly what he asked for from the Idaho State Board of Education--the OK to raise tuition and fees by 5.7 percent for the 2012-2013 school year---he sat down and wrote an essay challenging Idaho's higher-education model and even questioned whether graduate programming and research should continue to be funded at its current rates.
"Almost flat enrollment last year and predicted flat enrollment for this coming fall at Boise State and its sister institutions suggest to me that the higher-education bubble may visit Idaho soon," writes Kustra in his Blog Beyond the Blue.
Kustra's reference to the "higher-education bubble" may be keeping him and his counterparts at the University of Idaho and Idaho State University up at night. The bubble is a common prediction that the cost of higher education is dramatically outpacing the economy, discouraging students and parents, and according to Kustra, "leaving empty seats in empty buildings."
"Rather than sit around and take our chances as the nation did with the subprime bubble," writes Kustra, "it's time to roll up our sleeves and start asking the tough questions about whether there is not a more productive way to educate our students."
In particular, Kustra singled out graduate programs at Boise State and its sister universities "who have been around longer than we have and who have accumulated degrees and offerings that can no longer be justified by today's standards."
While fees to attend Idaho's four-year institutions increased by 6.87 percent for the current fiscal year following a 9 percent increase last year, the Consumer Price Index increased only 3.14 percent and the Idaho average annual wage increased only 1.97 percent.
The pocketbooks of students and parents were also hit at last week's state board meeting, when members insisted on maintaining Idaho's health-insurance requirement for full-time public college and university students.
Boise State joined a consortium, along with Idaho State and Lewis-Clark State College, to offer student health coverage, but premiums through the pool continue to skyrocket. Boise State students will soon face a 30.9 percent increase in premiums, to $2,124. While students are not required to purchase the plan, they are mandated to show equivalent coverage.