(UPDATED, May 2, 11:33 a.m., to reflect response from Ahlquist.)
A week ago, I emailed questions to Republican gubernatorial candidates Tommy Ahlquist and U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador, asking them for their opinions about college affordability.
I did get responses from Ahlquist Wednesday. But eight days later, I’m still waiting on answers from Labrador.
I had already heard from Republican Lt. Gov. Brad Little and Democrat A.J. Balukoff. Both responded to my email, and both criticized the State Board of Education’s decision to increase in-state tuition and fees by 3.5 to 5 percent. As it turns out, I had an interview scheduled with Democratic candidate Paulette Jordan the week of the State Board decision, so I was able to ask her questions about college affordability directly.
We published my story on college affordability Thursday — incorporating comments from Little, Balukoff and Jordan, and reflecting the fact that we hadn’t heard from Ahlquist and Labrador. I updated the story Wednesday to incorporate Ahlquist’s comments — and will do the same if Labrador responds.
Why are we pressing this issue?
All five gubernatorial candidates talk, in general terms, about preparing Idaho students for college and careers. The winning candidate will inherit the state’s overarching education goal: convincing 60 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds to obtain a college degree or professional certificate. Idaho is mired at 42 percent, so the next governor has plenty of work to do in this regard.
But it’s impossible to talk about postsecondary completion rates without talking about college affordability.
I wrote up some college affordability questions for last week’s Republican gubernatorial debate (I had a lot of questions on education, as you might expect). We didn’t have time to get there — and that is in no way a criticism of the debate itself. It’s amazing how quickly 90 minutes fly by when you have three candidates on the podium, and a long list of important topics to cover. We had to leave several other issues on the cutting room floor: prisons, growth, school safety. It always happens.
But I felt strongly enough about the importance of the college affordability issue that I wanted to put together a followup story. I had already quizzed the five candidates on school safety, for a story we published in April.
For the record, here’s what I asked about college affordability:
- Last week, the State Board of Education increased in-state fees for Idaho colleges and universities by 3.5 to 5 percent. Do you support the State Board’s decision?
- From 2010-11 through 2017-18, fees at Idaho’s four-year colleges increased by 34 percent, while the rate of inflation increased by 13 percent. (This does not factor in last week’s State Board decision.) In your opinion, is Idaho pricing students out of the market?
- As governor, what would you do specifically to address college affordability? Would you pursue the recommendations from the higher education task force — such as additional college scholarships or a “digital campus” to deliver college courses to rural Idaho? Do you have other proposals?