Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Remove the handcuffs

    The numbers say Idahoans are getting poorer and more numbers say the state’s young people are facing more economic hurdles that may prevent them from getting higher education.
    Information compiled by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows that Idaho ranks seventh in cuts in state spending for higher education.
    Between 2008 and 2013, Idaho reduced spending per student by nearly 40 percent—a big number. The same study showed that college tuition rates in Idaho went up 24.3 percent in the same period, even though it’s certain that no one except perhaps a handful of CEOs saw wages increase at the same rate in that period of time.
    The disparity between those numbers means that state universities and community colleges cut costs to make up the difference. Those cuts produced reductions in the availability of classes, cancellation of entire programs and turnover in the ranks of professors and administrators.
    There’s no question that the Great Recession posed challenges for states like Idaho that saw tax revenues plummet. Nonetheless, the downward trend in education spending needs to be reversed or we risk becoming a state largely populated by poor workers whose chances of getting ahead grow dimmer every year.
    Idaho’s average wage in 2011 was $36,452, which put our workers in the 48th position among states—not a happy spot.
    The link between higher education and higher incomes and more successful businesses is indisputable. The link between higher education and lower unemployment has never been more acutely obvious than during the last five years.
    Idaho leaders must begin to remove our economic handcuffs by restoring state support for higher education.

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