Higher Education Task Force prepares recommendations for Gov. Otter

Posted at 5:12 PM, Jun 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-09 19:12:31-04

The number of Idaho high school students choosing to go on to college is nowhere close to the state goal. The governor's higher education task force met Friday, June 9, to figure out why. 

Idaho's "go on" rate and college graduation rate rank near the bottom of national surveys -- something the task force hopes to quickly turn around.

New data shows 42 percent of high school students in the state go on to get higher education or certification, but that number is a ways away from Idaho's goal of having 60 percent of 25- to 35-year-olds with a post-secondary degree or certificate by 2020. 

"Progress has been slow and that's one of the reasons why the governor has called the task force see what things are working, what we can do differently, see what other states are doing...and make recommendations to him, and ultimately, to the legislature," said task force co-chair, Dr. Linda Clark.

A big factor for why students may choose to not pursue post-secondary education -- student debt. In fact, Idaho has the second-highest rate of student debt in the nation, according to the Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy. 

"Our tuition and fees are actually pretty low compared to other states," said Lauren Necochea, Director of the Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy. "But where we're missing opportunity is our financial aid, for students who need it, is much lower than our neighboring states and the nation as a whole."

A study by Georgetown University estimates 68 percent of jobs in Idaho will require a post-secondary credential by next year; but right now, the task force is only in the early stages of putting together recommendations for the governor. 

"I think each of the sub-committees is doing a really good job of researching, looking at best practices, around the country, and they've really just sort of laid out some general vision and positioning."

The 36-member task force is working on a bit of a time crunch. Recommendations are due to Governor Otter this September.