Idaho Education News senior reporter Kevin Richert has earned a national fellowship to report on the state’s higher education enrollment challenges.
The Education Writers Association will provide funding and support for the yearlong project. It’s Richert’s second EWA fellowship, and the third earned by Idaho Education News in its eight years of operation.
Higher education enrollment is a crucial Idaho education issue with national implications. In Idaho, and across much of the nation, enrollment has decreased during the coronavirus pandemic. But Idaho’s college completion rates remain among the lowest in the nation — even after the state has spent tens of millions of dollars to encourage young adults to continue their education.
This fall’s numbers cast a harsh light on Idaho’s ongoing challenge:
- Only 38 percent of Idaho’s high school graduates continued their education, either by attending college or seeking a professional certificate. That represents a one-year decrease of 7 percentage points — translating to some 1,400 young adults.
- Idaho enrollment decreases came in several key demographics: first-year, in-state students; first-generation college students; and students eligible for financial aid. Hispanic enrollment numbers were mixed at best.
Richert’s project will look at whether Idaho’s enrollment numbers are an anomaly, caused by the pandemic, or a sign of a deeper trend.
The project will run in two phases. In late spring, Richert will examine the 2020-21 enrollment, and its short- and long-term implications. In the fall, Richert will take a second look at the issue, centered on 2021-22 enrollment.
Based in Washington, D.C., EWA has provided training and support to education writers across the nation for more than 70 years.
“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt education, it’s important to focus on the crucial role colleges and universities play in the lives of individual students and in society at large,” said Caroline Hendrie, EWA’s executive director. “We’re pleased to support a new set of ambitious journalism projects by our members.”
In 2018, Richert used an EWA fellowship and spent five months talking to students, teachers and policymakers for “Options and Obstacles,” an eight-part series examining Idaho’s 60 percent postsecondary completion goal.
In 2020, Idaho Education News’ Sami Edge and the Idaho Statesman’s Nicole Foy collaborated on the Latino Listening Project, examining educational outcomes for Idaho’s Latino students.
Richert is one of Idaho’s most accomplished journalists, with 35 years of reporting and editing experience. He has reported for Idaho Education News since its launch in 2013 — writing on a host of topics, including literacy, the state’s failed school broadband project, elections and the Idaho Legislature. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and a master’s degree in public administration from Boise State University.