State Board ups the ante on direct admissions plan

(UPDATED, Aug. 8, to clarify the applications process.)

For year two, the State Board of Education is doubling down on its college “direct admissions” plan.

In early September, high school seniors across the state will receive letters saying they are pre-approved to state colleges and universities. Then, the State Board will follow up with a second letter in the middle of October.

Blake Youde
Blake Youde

The idea behind the repeat letters is to reach more students who have the grade point average and the test scores they need to get into college. The State Board had to do some cramming to get one letter out to seniors last fall — and with a single mailer, there’s more of a chance that students and parents will simply toss it aside, assuming it’s junk mail.

“It shows what they think of us,” State Board spokesman Blake Youde said Thursday morning, during a presentation at the Idaho Association of School Administrators’ annual leadership conference in Boise.

Since last year marked the launch of the direct admissions program, the State Board doesn’t have any hard enrollment data — at least not yet. But the anecdotal evidence is promising, Youde said.

“We are hearing that in-state freshman enrollment this fall should be up,” he said.

The state’s colleges and universities will turn preliminary 2016-17 enrollment numbers later this month. Final numbers are due in October.

In essence, the direct admissions plan assures qualified students a place at an Idaho college or university. They still must apply, and still will have to commit to an Idaho school by Feb. 15.

On Thursday morning, Youde updated school administrators on two other initiatives designed to boost Idaho’s lagging college attendance rates:

  • He said legislators might put even more money into college and career counseling, beyond the $5 million earmarked this year. Some lawmakers are talking about adding $2.5 million to the counseling budget.
  • Idaho’s expanded Opportunity Scholarship program has provided aid to 2,331 Idaho students so far. The 2016 Legislature doubled up funding for the Opportunity Scholarship, boosting the budget to $10 million. This represents an increase; in 2015-16, the state awarded 1,158 new scholarships, and renewed 742 other scholarships. The Opportunity Scholarship provides up to $3,000 a year to eligible students.