Some details are still fuzzy on the governor’s Idaho Launch program

School administrators received some guidance Thursday on Idaho Launch — Gov. Brad Little’s $80 million plan to steer Idaho graduates toward “in-demand careers.” But some of the details — including what qualifies as an in-demand career — are still being workshopped.

Officials from the governor’s office, the State Board of Education and the Workforce Development Council presented information about Idaho Launch to school leaders Thursday at the annual Idaho Association of School Administrators conference, shedding some light on the new scholarship program passed during the 2023 legislative session.

During Thursday’s meeting, administrators had plenty of questions about how in-demand careers will be defined, and how the scholarship money will be used.

Idaho Launch will provide $80 million in annual scholarships for Idaho graduates who plan to enter in-demand careers. Any Idaho graduate can receive a scholarship covering 80% of their college tuition costs, up to $8,000. The scholarships can be used at any Idaho college or workforce training program, including 4-year universities, 2-year community colleges, career technical education schools and other public or private programs.

An in-demand career — a phrase written in statute that has caused confusion for some educators — will be officially defined by the Workforce Development Council in September. According to Matt Reiber, policy advisor for the governor, in-demand careers will be measured based on projected job growth rate and annual job openings. A field with a projected growth rate in the double digits, and at least 100 annual job openings will likely qualify as an in-demand career.

“There aren’t enormous shifts in what’s in demand,” a state official told school leaders during Thursday’s presentation. “It ends up being the top 215 by number of job openings. So, it’s a lot of careers.”

Any Idaho graduate is eligible to apply for an Idaho Launch scholarship if they’ve completed a career pathway plan — either through Next Steps Idaho, a senior project or another state-approved method. There is no GPA requirement, and students are not required to file a FAFSA form to receive an Idaho Launch scholarship.

But filing a FAFSA is still recommended — if the state receives more applications than there is available funding, scholarships could be issued based on financial need. Plus, Launch scholarships can be combined with Pell Grants, Opportunity Scholarships and other need-based awards to pay for the 20% of tuition and fees that Launch doesn’t cover, along with other higher ed costs.

Students will have three years to use their Launch scholarship. The Workforce Development Council is still workshopping a policy for students who want to use a Launch scholarship, but plan on enlisting in the military, serving a religious mission, volunteering or have another extenuating circumstance that prevents them from attending college right away.

All Idaho Launch transactions will be completed directly between the state and the higher education institution to ensure the money is going to approved institutions, majors and certifications.

Idaho Launch applications will open October 3, and scholarships will be issued in June. School counselors and administrators will receive additional guidance in the coming months.

Sadie Dittenber

Sadie Dittenber

Reporter Sadie Dittenber focuses on K-12 policy and politics. She is a College of Idaho graduate, born and raised in the Treasure Valley. You can follow Sadie on Twitter @sadiedittenber and send her news tips at [email protected].

Get EdNews in your inbox

Weekly round up every Friday