- Associated Press - Monday, January 26, 2015

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - The University of Idaho will freeze undergraduate resident tuition rates next year if lawmakers fully fund a 3 percent salary increase for faculty and staff, the school’s president said.

“I believe reducing the tuition burden on students increases access to education,” Chuck Staben told lawmakers on the Legislature’s budget committee on Monday.

Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter has proposed an increase for all state employees, but only put $5.5 million toward salaries at Boise State University, the University of Idaho, Idaho State University and Lewis-Clark State College. The colleges would have to find $4 million to cover all employees. About $1.6 million of that would come from the University of Idaho.

Emma Atchley, president of the State Board of Education, said that money would have to come from students to pay for what is called a change in employee compensation, or CEC.

“You need to understand, an increase in tuition and fees will be necessary to cover that portion of the CEC cost,” said Atchley. She noted the increase could be as high as 3 percent at some schools.

Staben said salaries at the university are about 16 percent below average compared with institutions nationwide. Turnover, he said, this year increased to 18 percent from 16 percent last year.

“That’s much higher than any of the institutions where I’ve worked in the past,” he said. “We recruit nationally, especially for faculty. I know 16 to 18 percent turnover isn’t a good way to run a business.”

Republican Sen. Dean Cameron of Rupert, the budget committee co-chairman, said the Legislature only appropriated the general fund portion of any salary increase. He said that if the policy changes for colleges and universities, then community colleges and state agencies could make similar requests.

The proposal “poses the committee with an interesting dilemma,” he said.

Low faculty salaries, Staben noted, “put us at risk for losing our stars and rising stars.”

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