Idaho education board makes some college fees optional

MOSCOW, Idaho (AP) — Students at state colleges and universities will be able to opt out of some fees under a plan approved by the Idaho State Board of Education on Thursday.

The new fee structure allowing students to opt out of fees for activities, clubs and on-campus organizations goes into effect in the 2022-23 school year, the Moscow-Pullman Daily News reported. Students who decide to opt out of those fees will receive a refund from their school.

Student fees — particularly the ones that go to support extracurricular activities, clubs and cultural events — have long been a source of debate in Idaho as lawmakers and administrators struggle to keep the state’s higher education institutions affordable and robust. Officials spent the spring and summer evaluating which student fees could be optional, and how all the fees should be labeled.

The new plan breaks the fees into four categories. The student enrollment, engagement and success category goes partly toward scholarships, and the institutional operations, services and support category helps fund maintenance. The student health and wellness category of fees helps cover the cost of fitness centers and counseling. The last category — student government fees — pays for student government and helps subsidize student clubs, organizations and activities. A portion of the student government fee is now optional under the new plan.

After the vote, Board Member Dave Hill thanked the institutions for working to restructure the original fee system.

“We should just recognize that the institutions really did a lot of work here,” Hill said. “They embraced this challenge and took it on in a very positive way.”

The state board also approved an online undergraduate program in cybersecurity management at Lewis-Clark State College. The new degree incorporates cybersecurity and business management, said Fred Chilson, interim vice president for academic affairs at LCSC. It will be available in collaboration with other state colleges and universities.

University of Idaho President Scott Green said the new LCSC program helps higher education programs across the state.

“This program is really important for not only us but our sister institutions, and it truly is a collaborative effort,” he said. “Our employers tell us this is critical for graduating students to be ready to contribute to our economy right away.”

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