Life after high school: digging into Idaho's ‘60 percent goal'

Posted at 2:30 PM, Dec 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-15 16:31:48-05

This week, we summarize our in-depth series looking at Idaho’s push to get high school graduates to continue their education:

A $100 million effort. Idaho is spending big money to hire new college and career counselors, offer more college scholarships and allow high school students to take college courses for free. From 2013 through 2018, Idaho will spend more than $100 million on a host of programs designed to encourage high school graduates to continue their education. But five years in, the results are limited.

For students, a defining decision. Idaho’s goal can be summed up in a number: state leaders want to see 60 percent of young adults finish college or obtain a professional certificate. But for students, the decision of what to do after high school comes down not to public policy, but personal preference. We talk to five students — heading to college, a church mission, the work force and the military.

The rising sticker price. Idaho’s college and tuition costs remain among the lowest in the nation. But the cost is rising faster than the rate of inflation, leaving high school students facing the prospect of going into debt. “We’re asking 18-year-olds to make sophisticated financial decisions, and that’s tough,” University of Idaho President Chuck Staben said.

A long, costly process. It’s going to take more time, and more money, for Idaho to get closer to its 60 percent goal. Proposals such as a digital college campus will take a ongoing, concerted funding commitment. “There’s little evidence in the past that we have a Legislature that is willing to jump in and do that,” Boise State University President Bob Kustra said.

In other education news this week:

A bond battle in Bonneville. The growing Bonneville School District will seek two bond issues totaling $60 million. Trustee Greg Calder urged the board to seek a middle school and a new elementary school in separate ballot questions — and the elementary school bond issue could not go into effect unless patrons first approve the middle school. “Get out of my face,” Superintendent Chuck Shackett told Calder, shortly after trustees sided with Calder, over Shackett’s objections.


Kevin Richert is a reporter and blogger with Idaho Education News ( Idaho Education News is an independent news site focused on education policy and politics, funded by the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation. Richert has worked in the Idaho news media since 1985, as a reporter, editor and columnist.