On Friday, members of the Idaho House of Representatives set the budget for the state’s community colleges and the College of Western Idaho (CWI) in Nampa will see extra money next year to deal with massive student growth.
On a 63-0 vote, lawmakers passed the $27.7 million community colleges budget, which has already cleared the Senate. It now heads to the governor’s desk.
The budget represents a $4.7 million funding hike over last year, though colleges are still well below the 2009 budget level. The new money is a 20 percent increase for 2013.
CWI, founded three years ago, has seen enrollment grow from just more than 1,000 in its first semester to well over 10,000 this spring. School officials have warned that resources are tight as they struggle to keep up with the huge student increase and they requested more funding to provide resources for that.
Lawmakers heard the cries, allocating the school an additional $1 million next year, which will put the school on the road to equal funding with its two counterparts, North Idaho College and College of Southern Idaho, in the state.
While the other two schools have complained about funding woes this year, they supported CWI getting the extra money.
Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, said the school has proved its value in the very short time it’s been open. “They are certainly doing a great service for our state,” Jaquet said. “This is a good budget.”
The budget isn’t as much as the community colleges requested, however. Their request was for a total of $32.6 million, though neither the budget committee nor Gov. Butch Otter supported that figure.
Last year, lawmakers cut just less than $1 million from the community college budget, the second year in the row the spending plan saw reductions. Those cuts were completely mitigated, however, when Idaho ended fiscal year with a large surplus and $7.5 million found its way into community college coffers. As the state’s largest community college, CWI received $5 million of the surplus funding.