Aug
21
2016

Local column: The need for an eastern Idaho community college

http://www.postregister.com/articles/opinions/2016/08/21/local-column-need-eastern-idaho-community-college

Local column: The need for an eastern Idaho community college

As a member of the panel that researched turning EITC into a community college, I’m convinced it’s a fantastic opportunity, writes Kenneth Taylor.

By Kenneth Taylor

I recently had the opportunity of serving on the Community College Study Panel. The 11-member panel began our investigation in February and published our report on August 2. During that six-month period the panel investigated the need for a local community college, what it’s likely enrollment would be, the cost of the college, likely funding sources and the economic impact to the community. We were assisted by the Research & Business Development Center.

Our conclusion and recommendation is the expansion of Eastern Idaho Technical College (EITC) to a comprehensive community college. The complete 44-page report is available to the public on EITC’s website at www.eitc.edu.

A community college can offer affordable higher education to many students in our community. Tuition costs of a community college are one third the cost of a four-year school. Students can live at home; further saving the lodging costs of attending a college outside the community. Students may choose to get their first two years of higher education at the community college and transfer into bachelor programs of other institutions in their junior year. Additionally, two-year associate degrees would be available. The existing technical training would be continued and enhanced. High school students could transfer their dual credit courses. Each of these options provide an affordable and convenient way for graduating high school students to continue their higher education. As I have visited with the citizens of our community, I find overwhelming support from students and parents for a local community college.

Employment data demonstrates that demand for jobs requiring education beyond high school has dramatically increased in Eastern Idaho in the last few years. Furthermore, existing businesses and businesses considering locating in Eastern Idaho desperately need an expanding local educated workforce.

The likely enrollment of a community college would likely reach 4000 students in the first six years of operations. The current campus at EITC is significantly underutilized. The current enrollment of approximately 700 students can grow to 4000 without having to purchase additional land and buildings. This is a tremendous opportunity providing great value at a very manageable cost.

Sources for funding the school would include state general funds, student tuition and the formation of a taxable community college district. It is anticipated that the increased property taxes would cost the average family $2-$3 per month. The Governor of Idaho has recommended and the legislature has approved $5 million toward the initial startup costs of converting EITC to a community college.

Over 900 jobs would be created and sustained and nearly $66 million in additional economic activity would result from operations and student spending.

I am excited about the prospect of converting EITC to a full-service community college. Frankly, it is long overdue. The citizens of our community need to get behind this initiative, bring it to the ballot and make this fantastic opportunity a reality.


Taylor is a self-employed certified public accountant who served six years on the Idaho Falls City Council. He is happily married witheight children and 29 grandchildren.