U of I study digs into state’s middling go-on rate

Idaho high school graduates go on to college largely because they want a job they’ll love — or a better-paying job.

But many of these college-bound students aren’t completely sold on the value of college.

Those are two key findings from a report released Friday by the University of Idaho.

University researchers interviewed 385 high school graduates in September, in hopes of trying to better understand Idaho’s lagging college “go-on” rate.

A few key results:

  • For 35 percent of respondents, the most important consideration about attending college was “having a job I love.” For another 21 percent, making money was the primary driver.
  • Students were somewhat skeptical about the payoff from college. “Only two-thirds of respondents strongly agreed that more education would help them get a higher-paying job,” according to a summary of the report. “The rest had at least some doubt.”
  • The study again demonstrated a gender gap that has persisted for years. In 2014, 53 percent of Idaho’s female high school graduates went on to college, compared with 38 percent of males.
  • But these college-bound students have different motivations. Female students said they were most motivated by the idea of broadening their horizons. For male students, the top motivation was making money.

The U of I study came on the heels of surprising testimony from state Labor Department director Ken Edmunds. On Thursday, Edmunds told the Legislature’s Economic Outlook and Revenue Assessment Committee that Idaho loses about half of its college graduates within four years — largely because of the state’s low wages. (Details from Betsy Russell of the Spokane Spokesman-Review.)

About 50 percent of Idaho’s class of 2014 had enrolled in college within 12 months of graduating high school, according to a State Board of Education report. By 2020, the State Board wants 60 percent of the state’s 25- to 34-year-olds to obtain a college degree or certificate.

The U of I study tried to track students who did not go on to college right after high school. According to the survey, about a third of these students enlisted in the military or went on a church mission.