Calling the 170-percent increase in tuition and mandatory fees at Idaho’s public universities and colleges over the past 15 years “repugnant to freedom and opportunity,” a citizen-driven ballot initiative has been launched that would see a 25 percent reduction in tuition over 2 years with funding coming from a $1.50 cigarette tax. That would be on top of the current 57-cent-per-pack tax in Idaho. Supporters of the initiative say the extra revenue would provide for $62.53 million to Idaho public universities and colleges (the approximate equivalent of 25 percent of tuition) and $6.25 million to the community colleges.
Organizers say there’s another significant side-effect to their initiative—by increasing the tax by 163 percent, they’re projecting a big drop in cigarette consumption, thus saving Idaho $440 million in what they claim would be long-term healthcare costs.
The so-called StopTuititionHikes.com Act, which would require voter approval, would help curb what organizers say is out-of-control student debt. Simply put, they say, the proposed tuition reduction would reduce student average student loan repayment terms by a little more than 9 years by saving students $68.58 million in interest in addition to $62.53 million in principal over the life of the loan (assuming a repayment term of 24 years for current students).
Organizers also point to what they say is poor access to the state’s public universities, calling Idaho’s rate of 45 percent of high school grads going directly to a 4-year or community college “abysmal.”
Idaho’s 57-cent-per-pack is the eighth-lowest cigarette tax rate in the nation. But multiple attempts by the Idaho Legislature have been repeatedly snuffed out in spite of proponents saying the extra funds were desperately need for education or health and welfare funding.
StopTuitonHikes.Com organizers have until April 30, 2016, to garner enough signatures in their effort to make it to the November 2016 ballot.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra: "As I have said in the past, Idaho’s graduation rate is showing positive movement and this confirms that students are graduating at a higher rate nationally than ever before,”
Idaho Democratic Party officials in Boise have decided to pull a party field organizers out of Legislative District No. 1 because the operative claims he was being "stalked and harassed" by supporters of incumbent Republican Rep. Heather Scott.