By Shelbie Harris email@example.com
In what one local official called a knockout decision, a unanimous State Board of Education on Thursday approved a resolution to put on the November ballot a proposal to include Bingham County in the College of Eastern Idaho community college district.
Bingham County Republican Central Committee Chairman Dan Cravens said he was â€śextremely thrilledâ€ť following approval of the resolution, which now triggers one last step before Bingham County joins the district.
That is, a simple majority voter approval.
â€śIf they approve the districting by a simple majority, there is a cost involved,â€ť Cravens said. â€śBut regardless, there is a cost involved either way.â€ť
Rather than Bingham County fronting an additional $50 per credit hour up to the first 10 credit hours per Bingham County student who enrolls at CEI â€” which for 500 students could amount to $250,000 per semester charged to the county â€” voter approval to add Bingham County to the community college district would instead increase property taxes in Bingham County by approximately $11 to $12 per year for the average homeowner, Cravens added.
â€śAt some point, the $50 additional fee would become a large enough amount of money that it would be something we would impose on tax payers anyway,â€ť Cravens said.
An advantage for Bingham County to join the district, according to Cravens, includes greater access for students to dual enrollment credits, which can formulate a pipeline of students interested in post-secondary education.
The new college will be offering technical programs and an associateâ€™s degree in liberal arts when it opens this fall and expects to have over 1,000 students by the end of its first year in operation.
â€śWe want greater access for students coming out of high school,â€ť Cravens said. â€śWe want our students coming out of high school to have the opportunity to have as many college credits as possible.â€ť
CEI President Rick Aman concurred with Cravens, adding that getting more counties included in the community college district is mutually beneficial for the school, too.
â€śThe more students served, the better,â€ť Aman said. â€śWe really have an obligation to the state of Idaho, and while Bonneville County is our primary focus, we want to move the go-on rate throughout the state and see more graduating seniors go on to some post-secondary education.â€ť
Aman said that as a community college, CEI can help local high schools with dual credit enrollment by certifying teachers, so that by the time students graduate high school, only one year remains before they can receive an associateâ€™s degree.
â€śCurrently, between 10,000 and 20,000 Idaho citizens have some college yet no degree,â€ť Aman said. â€śIf Bingham County could come in, that would give us some motivation to get some teaching space in the area, and we want to get citizens employed as quick as possible.â€ť
In addition to dual enrollment credits, Cravens said another advantage to joining the district is the opportunities it provides to people already in the workforce who are interested in additional training.
â€śWe are also excited about the folks who are out in the workforce right now and want to retrain,â€ť Cravens said. â€śWe see a lot of these being linked with manufacturing jobs including welders, cyber security and fields related to math and technology.â€ť
CEI offers not only two-year associateâ€™s degrees, but also features certificate programs that can present those in the workforce with chances to obtain higher paying jobs.
â€śBecause our employment rate is so low, we have people looking for work but they donâ€™t have the proper skillsets,â€ť Cravens said. â€śIf we can train folks for this job, itâ€™s a win-win. Citizens have additional opportunities and businesses and industries are no longer bottlenecked because they canâ€™t find the right talent.â€ť
Blake Youde, the State Board of Education spokesman, said the board was supportive of the initial formation of CEI in Bonneville County, and with Bingham County boasting five school districts, there is a demonstrated demand for post-secondary educational opportunities in the area.
â€śThe board thought this was a good request,â€ť Youde said. â€śOne that voters should have the opportunity to look at.â€ť