Burgoyne pitches bill to help students pay for college

March 13, 2019

BOISE — A Boise senator unveiled a bill recently to help pay some of the tuition costs of community college or workforce training.

“For many Idaho students, the gap between the financial resources they have and the actual cost of attending college or workforce training is just too wide,” Sen. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, said at a news conference. “This legislation will help fill that gap, improve enrollment and completion rates in Idaho’s public post-secondary programs, and thereby, jump start the state’s workforce readiness.”

Burgoyne said he plans to spend the next few months talking to teachers and administrators, state agency, nonprofit and business groups and members of the general public about the proposal. He plans to introduce a bill in 2020.

“We have quite a bit of work to do,” he said.

Burgoyne said his “Idaho Promise” bill is modeled on similar ones that have passed in Tennessee, Georgia, New York and Oregon. The bill would require students to apply for any available scholarships and federal aid and then offer state money to help cover any remaining costs.

“There has to be accountability and responsibility in the system,” he said.

He said he is working with an $18 million a year cost estimate now, although he expects that to come down considerably due to federal Pell grants covering much of students’ tuition costs.

Idaho policymakers set a goal almost a decade ago of getting to a place where 60 percent of 25-to-34-year-olds have a college degree or other post-high school certification, but progress on this goal has been slow. Jean Henscheid, an education policy analyst and fellow at the National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition, pointed to the high number of students who want to “go on” after high school but don’t.

“We don’t have an anti-college culture here,” she said. “We have a last-mile problem.”