Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter and members of House and Senate leadership joined today in hailing bipartisan support for a plan to create an Idaho Higher Education Stabilization Fund to help State colleges and universities – and the people they serve – weather tough economic times.
“Idaho public schools would be struggling a lot more than they are without the $318 million that we’ve been able to use for K-12 education during this recession from the Public Education Stabilization Fund. One of the things we should learn from this downturn is how important it is to provide a similar safety net for higher education,” Governor Otter said. “It’s the right thing to do for those Idaho students who we want to keep here at home. It’s the right thing to do for their families and our communities. And it’s the right thing to do for our economic future.”
House Bill 544 would redirect interest on revenue from tuition and fees at Idaho’s State colleges and universities to a new “strategy interest account” within the broader Higher Education Stabilization Fund. That would include about $114,000 now available. The Legislature also would be able to appropriate money to the fund in the future, when there is a surplus of revenue, and it would disburse money from the fund to the institutions – including the community colleges – based on allocation practices used by the State Board of Education.
“Our economy will recover and we’ll have money available to invest in higher education again. But there also will be another recession someday, and we need to be ready,” said Senator Joe Stegner, assistant majority leader in the Idaho Senate. “This is a prudent step toward ensuring we have the means to keep our promises to Idaho’s students.”
“Career training, research and development, and an educational climate that helps us attract and retain employers are only a few of the reasons why greater stability in funding for our colleges and universities is so important,” said Representative Scott Bedke, assistant majority leader in the Idaho House. “Now is the time to prepare for the next economic downturn.”
The House of Representatives unanimously passed House Bill 544 and forwarded it to the Senate, where it was endorsed by the State Education Committee today and sent to the full Senate for consideration.