The Idaho Budget Index examines appropriation bills on several fronts to add important context to lawmakers’ discussions as they are considered on the floor of the House and Senate. Among the issues we look at in drawing a conclusion about a budget:
Does the agency requesting these funds serve a proper role of government? Has wasteful or duplicative spending been identified within the agency, and if so, has that spending been eliminated or corrected? Does the budget examine existing spending to look for opportunities to contain spending, e.g., through a base reduction? If there is a maintenance budget, is that maintenance budget appropriate? Are the line items appropriate in type and size, and are they absolutely necessary for serving the public? Does the budget contemplate the addition of new employees or programs? Does the appropriation increase dependency on the federal government?
Our analysis is intended to provide lawmakers and their constituents with a frame of reference for conservative budgeting, by summarizing whether appropriation measures contain items that are sincerely objectionable or sincerely supportable.
The colleges and universities continue to request state-funded budget increases despite flat to declining enrollment. Full-time equivalent enrollment has declined significantly at three of the four institutions covered by this budget: Idaho State, the University of Idaho and Lewis-Clark State College. The only exception is Boise State University.
The full-time enrollment for these four institutions was 37,239 for the fall of 2014 and that declined slightly by the fall of 2018 to 37,191. Only BSU is increasing enrollment, and the 7.8 percent increase masks the larger declines at other institutions: 8.6 percent decline at ISU, 3.5 percent at UI, and 5.1 percent at LCC.
Despite this enrollment decline, the appropriation has gone up from $499 million in Fiscal Year 2015 to $576 million in Fiscal Year 2019, and increase of about 15.4 percent.
The colleges and universities requested $604 million for Fiscal Year 2020.
In addition, these institutions continue to raise tuition and fees by an average of more than 3 percent per year.
In addition, it does not make sense to lump these four institutions into one budget when only one institution is growing in full-time enrollment.
There is a disconnect between the budget growth and enrollment patterns. A final thought: How many of the degrees that are granted are really preparing young people for today’s job market?