Press Releases | Governance

New “Report Card” Grades Idaho’s Public Universities; Failing Grades Given in Cost and Effectiveness

"Well-structured" and "transparent" board called key to universities' improvement; Report author to meet with State Board of Education & key legislators
January 19, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC—The American Council of Trustees and Alumni will hold a press conference Thursday to release Here We Have Idaho: A State Report Card on Public Higher Education. The report praises the State Board of Education (SBOE), which oversees both K-12 and higher education, for transparent and well-structured operations. However, the report also calls on SBOE to pay substantially more attention to rising costs, a weak core curriculum, and low graduation and retention rates in Idaho’s colleges and universities.

“Idaho’s governing board is on the right track,” said ACTA President Anne D. Neal. “Members are asking questions, concerned about transparency and about accountability. But real challenges remain.

“While Idaho is surely not alone, tuition continues to go up. Increasing administrative expenses are costing Idaho students and taxpayers. The concerns raised are serious—but there is good news. Institutions can address these challenges without adding a cent to the budget. In fact, our recommendations allow Idaho’s public colleges to do more with less. We are confident that policymakers will dedicate themselves to overcoming these challenges and putting students first.”

The report card surveys all four of Idaho’s public four-year institutions: Boise State University, Idaho State University, Lewis-Clark State College, and the University of Idaho.

It offers a Pass or Fail grade in four key areas: what a college education costs, how the universities are governed, what students are learning and whether the marketplace of ideas is vibrant.

Cost & Effectiveness: F

Governance and Board Accomplishments: Pass/Incomplete

General Education: F

Intellectual Diversity: F

The report finds:

— Undergraduate tuition and fees in the state of Idaho have been outpacing inflation in recent years and taking an increasing bite out of the average household’s income. Meanwhile, retention and graduation rates remain below national averages.

— While most of Idaho’s public institutions have some general education requirements, all of them graduate students with great gaps in their knowledge. They fail to ensure students study foundational subjects, such as U.S. history or government, intermediate level foreign language, and economics.

— Significant percentages of students reported course readings and panel discussions that are one-sided or unfair, professors injecting politics into class when it was not relevant, and perceived pressure to agree with a professor’s views—either on the topic at hand or on other issues—in order to get a good grade.

“The Governor has wisely recommended that the state pay for all Idaho high school students to take college entrance exams. Getting students into higher education is half the college education battle,” said Dr. Michael Poliakoff, ACTA’s Policy Director who helped guide the project. “The other half is that those students get a challenging, high-quality education and complete their degrees. Here We Have Idaho asks the trustees to step up to the plate to ensure student success.”

“The members of the State Board of Education demonstrate a level of thoughtful engagement that I just haven’t seen in other states,” said Heather Lakemacher, ACTA’s Senior Program Officer and co-author of Here We Have Idaho. “Still, it’s obvious that they have a great deal of work to do.” Ms. Lakemacher will address the press on Thursday, January 20th, at 10:30 A.M. from the State Capitol. The report will be available on Wednesday, January 19th on ACTA’s and IFF’s websites.

“The state spends more than $217 million in taxpayer money on colleges and universities in Idaho,” said Wayne Hoffman, Executive Director of the Idaho Freedom Foundation. “That’s in addition to student fees and tuition. Lawmakers, the governor, State Board of Education and, indeed, taxpayers and students, should really be asking what they’re getting for their money. What are students learning? How much is going to administration and not into the classrooms and lecture halls? This report card is the first-ever look into Idaho’s system of higher education and provides clear direction and benchmarks for improvements for the benefit of both taxpayers and Idaho’s college students.”

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America’s colleges and universities. Launched in 1995, ACTA is the only organization that works with alumni, donors, trustees, and education leaders across the United States to support liberal arts education, uphold high academic standards, safeguard the free exchange of ideas on campus, and ensure that the next generation receives a philosophically rich, high-quality college education at an affordable price.

ACTA’s national network includes alumni and trustees from more than 700 colleges and universities, including more than 10,000 board members. This is the 5th in a series of state report cards issued by ACTA. Other states reviewed are Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, and Missouri.

The Idaho Freedom Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit educational and research organization that develops and advocates the principles of individual liberty, personal responsibility, private property rights, economic freedom, and limited government. The Foundation’s mission is to keep Idaho free by generating research and data on key issues, and recommending the findings to opinion leaders, policymakers, media and the citizens of Idaho.


Launched in 1995, we are the only organization that works with alumni, donors, trustees, and education leaders across the United States to support liberal arts education, uphold high academic standards, safeguard the free exchange of ideas on campus, and ensure that the next generation receives an intellectually rich, high-quality college education at an affordable price.

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