Gov. Butch Otter created the Higher Education Task Force in February to improve higher education in Idaho, and it is being led by two hard-working Idahoans who care deeply about education in this state: longtime tech business leader Bob Lokken and former West Ada School District Superintendent and current State Board of Education member Linda Clark.
The group is studying how to encourage more Idaho high school graduates to earn a college degree or certificate, how to make sure higher education is affordable and accessible here, and how to improve the skills and competencies of our college graduates as they enter the workforce.
From my perspective, one of our top priorities must be to find a new way to support Idaho students from all economic backgrounds as they pursue their educational and career goals.
As the largest institution of higher education in the state, Boise State confers nearly half of all bachelor’s degrees awarded each year by Idaho public universities — and about three out of four of our graduates stay in Idaho to live, work and raise their families.
But since Boise State grew rapidly at a time when the state struggled to adequately fund and make equitable the higher education formula, these students get far less state support than their peers who choose other in-state institutions. That imbalance impedes our ability to respond to growth, implement new ideas and serve our local and regional economy.
As efficient and effective as Boise State has been, we continue to see the gap widening every year. And the truth is that Idaho students should all enjoy the same amount of support. A healthy and fair budget could support our students, as well as provide incentives for university leaders to make the best decisions they can for their students.
I expect that arriving at a new funding model will be a challenging endeavor for universities in Idaho. But more than 30 other states use at least some form of “outcomes-based” budgeting, which targets state dollars where they matter the most: in producing graduates to work in and lead the economy.
Whatever the final decision, it won’t be an overnight fix, but I am glad the state has taken the first steps toward finding the right solution for Idaho.
The task force is made up of my peers from Idaho’s institutions of higher education, members of the State Board of Education, government representatives, business leaders and educators. The task force will make recommendations in September. I invite you to stay informed and engaged along the way.
As always, thank you for all that you do for Boise State and its students.