Idaho Higher Education Task Force: “A Big Job in Front of Us”

Bob Lokken, the co-chair of Idaho’s Task Force on Higher Education, told the task force Friday that “We have a big job in front of us.”

The task force has been working for several months now on the challenge of increasing the rate of Idaho residents who go on to further their education after high school.

HighEdGrab

(The task force met June 9, 2017 in Boise. Screen grab from Boise State University Television)

“There are roughly 100,000 students in our higher ed system today,” Lokken said in opening today’s meeting at Boise State University. “Assuming that we get a little bit more efficient at producing degrees and lessening drop-out rate, we’re probably talking around additional 40,000 students enrolled in higher ed at the point we get to 60%. That’s effectively two more Boise State Universities.”

What would that system look like in Idaho, delivering education to 40,000 more people than it does right now?

When Idaho Governor Butch Otter announced the state’s Task Force on Higher Education back in January, he said, “We seek to make more rapid progress toward our “Go On” goal of 60 percent of Idahoans between the ages of 25 and 34 attaining a postsecondary degree or certification by 2020. We know that Idaho’s future economic prosperity depends on our ability to develop a more skilled and educated workforce.”

On February 1, Otter announced the 36 members of the task force and said it would be co-chaired by Lokken, CEO of WhiteCloud Analytics Inc. and chairman of the Idaho Business for Education board of directors, and Dr. Linda Clark, vice president of the State Board of Education.

Lokken said Friday that the numbers are significant. He said the state is spending about $1.1 billion on higher education, and if the state is going to increase degrees by 50%, “it’s hard for me to imagine how we’re going to grow the budget by 50%.”

Lokken said one-third of that budget comes from tuition, one-third comes from state fees, and one-third from grants. “The magnitude of the problem we’re dealing with is starting to take shape,” he said.

Among the issues the task force is looking at is the demographics of the 40,000 people not continuing their education in some way– what are the needs of that group, in addition to the needs of the 100,000 people already in?

Some members also talked about achieving the 60% goal in 2025.

Task force members said today they had been talking about the perception of the value of education beyond high school, college and career advising, dual-credit classes, online education, the academic rigor during the senior year of high school, post-secondary recruitment and retention, marketing, and the cost of education.

“Today education is facing a huge technology change, just as agriculture did,” Idaho State Board of Education President Emma Atchley said. “We must embrace it and we must go forward with it.”

One task force committee discussed online and digital learning as a new delivery system, designed specifically to address “the access and affordability problems inherent in the geography bound group of people who are not getting on to secondary education.” Committee members discussed an online portal system to improve access to people who can’t move to a campus to continue their education.

Another idea that came up during conversation is a 24/7 coaching center to get information to people as they need it, to improve recruitment and retention.

What’s needed, Lokken said, is a realistic road map. The task force has to come up with recommendations that have a viable chance of getting acted upon and have a viable chance of getting the state to the 60% goal.

“When you look at the scope of the 60% goal,” Lokken said, “I think we as a task force have a choice we’re going to be making over the next couple of months. We’re either going to have to go bold, and have a shot, even though we don’t know how maybe all the pieces would come together in the final game, or we’re going to go modest, and we might score some victories, but it’s unlikely we would get to 60%.”

Posted June 9, 2017

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