Higher ed leaders discuss Idaho’s lagging ‘go-on rate’

On Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Brad Little played the moderator and asked college and university presidents a question that has plagued the state for years.

How can Idaho improve its sluggish college go-on rate — which has plummeted during the pandemic and dropped to 37% in 2021?

Here’s what Little and an audience of about 100 heard Wednesday during a roundtable discussion as part of Boise Entrepreneur Week for Higher Education:

Gordon Jones, President, College of Western Idaho. Colleges and universities in Idaho face two major obstacles: self-doubt and relevance. They must help prospective students overcome their own doubts about enrolling or returning to school. They also need to demonstrate their relevance – and a return on a student’s investment.

Cynthia Pemberton, President, Lewis-Clark State College. Advocates of higher education need to confront “the negative narrative” of the critics. They must defend themselves against the misconception that higher education is not “added value” because graduates have a lifetime employability. “The dollars matter and these things matter.”

Jim Everett, Co-President, The College of Idaho. Higher education needs to talk about the relevance of a higher education, especially in a rapidly changing job market. “We need to educate people so they’re ready for what’s next.” But building the case for college can’t start in high school; it starts in early childhood education.

Kevin Satterlee, President, Idaho State University. The largest surge in college enrollments in US history occurred after World War II with the GI Bill. Then as now, affordability is a key. “Scholarships to get these kids into school will make a difference.”

Scott Green, President, University of Idaho. Affordability is key and higher education needs to tell its story. There are some encouraging signs. Freshman enrollments surged this fall at U of I, contributing to a record freshman class. And to the surprise of U of I officials, 52% of the newcomers are first-generation students; Typically, this number is around 40%. “I hope the message gets through.”

Andreas Finstuen, Dean, Boise State Honors College, Associate Vice President, Strategic Planning and Special Initiatives. Grants and flexibility are key. At Boise State, when 23% of students are fully online, that means responding to diverse student needs.

Kevin Richert

About Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education policy and education policy. He has over 30 years of journalism experience in Idaho. He is a frequent guest on KIVI 6 On Your Side; “Idaho Reports” on Idaho Public Television; and “Idaho Matters” on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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