The University of Idaho joined Idaho State University and Boise State University in a commitment to not seek tuition increases for the 2021-22 academic year, as long as Gov. Brad Little’s proposed higher education budget is approved by the Legislature.

If tuition increases do not take place, it would be the second year in a row that hikes were not requested for in-state undergraduate students.

In late 2019, presidents of three universities and Lewis-Clark State College initiated a tuition freeze for the current academic year.

LCSC President Cynthia Pemberton commended the universities on the extended tuition freeze, but she said her institution will not be able to follow suit. Pemberton said the college’s “minimalist operation” is “more lean than is sustainable.”

“The only viable lever within our control is tuition,” Pemberton said in a statement.

She explained that many key roles are “literally one-person deep,” full-time staffing levels are lower than they’ve been in a decade despite serving its third-largest enrollment in school history this fall, and the implementation of a change in employee compensation increase would necessitate further cuts.

The college has reduced its fiscal year 2021 general education budget by $1.7 million and has cut back expenses by $2.6 million to address projected shortfalls and uncertainties. The move led to layoffs and the discontinuation of some of its programs last year.

Pemberton said the fact LCSC is not in a position to freeze tuition for the coming year is unfortunate.

“Evidenced by our current tuition rate, Lewis-Clark State College has a long track record of keeping tuition as low as possible,” Pemberton said. “With 78 percent of our student body being first generation and 45 percent being low income, access and affordability are and will continue to be priorities.”

The Idaho State Board of Education typically approves tuition and fee increases in April.

Little’s proposed fiscal year 2022 budget restores nearly $15.4 million in higher education cuts that took place because of a statewide 5 percent holdback put into place last year in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The budget also funds $2.1 million for the enrollment workload adjustment, which is determined on a three-year average of the number of credit hours taught by each institution.

Tomtas may be contacted at jtomtas@lmtribune.com or at (208) 848-2294. Follow her on Twitter @jtomtas.