As leaders of Idaho’s business community, we oppose the Idaho House’s decision to reject Governor Little’s budget for our colleges and universities. Our concern is heightened by the fact that your vote came after the Idaho Senate approved the budget overwhelmingly.
A strong higher education system is critical to building the workforce that Idaho’s businesses need to grow and thrive. When you weaken our colleges and universities you are also putting Idaho’s economic future at risk.
The Idaho Legislature itself set the goal of having 60 percent of our 25-34-year-olds holding a postsecondary credential by 2025. Ironically, your vote makes it even more difficult for our state to achieve that goal and create the workforce we need.
It is also of grave concern that you are rejecting support for higher education at a time when our college and university presidents are collaborating more than at any time in recent memory. They have pledged to freeze tuition if the Legislature supports Governor Little’s budget, a step that will take a financial burden off your constituent families and make postsecondary education more affordable for Idaho’s young people.
It is also directly detrimental to our State to have leaders entrusted with the state’s future reject a budget for colleges and universities which together contributed more than $3 billion to the Idaho economy even six years ago and probably more now.
It is also damaging to our State’s economy for you to reject a budget for the very colleges and universities that conduct important research and support that is critical to the success of basic Idaho industries like farming, ranching, dairy, forestry, health care and technology.
These institutions also educate our future business and political leaders – yes, even legislators – who someday will be entrusted with Idaho’s future.
As businesses that employ thousands of your constituents and rely on a strong higher education system, we urge you to stop turning our critical higher education infrastructure into a political football in the culture wars. Funding per student has already dropped 14 percent over the past 10 years. Chipping away at this critical economic engine of our state for political reasons is counterproductive for building an economically vibrant Idaho.
Instead, we ask you to strengthen your support for our colleges and universities so they can be the economic engines that our state needs for a bright and prosperous future for all Idahoans.
This letter to the Idaho House of Representatives was signed by nearly 100 members of Idaho Business for Education, a business group working to strengthen education in Idaho.