Idaho’s much-discussed “60 percent goal” won’t go away. But it will probably look different.
A gubernatorial task force started its final formal meeting Friday by pushing back the timetable — and pushing the reset button on the “60 percent” message.
The new target date: Have 60 percent of Idaho’s 25- to 34-year-olds hold some form of postsecondary degree by 2025.
The new message: The 60 percent goal supports a bigger objective. It should help Idahoans survive and thrive in a changing economy.
“Numbers are hard to get people to rally around,” said Bob Lokken, the founder of a Boise technology firm and the co-chair of the higher ed task force.
It was the 60 percent goal — and Idaho’s lagging progress toward meeting the yardstick — that prompted Gov. Butch Otter to form the 35-member task force. College go-on rates and graduation rates have remained stagnant, prompting the task force to abandon the original 2020 target date.
On Friday, the task force reconvened at Boise State University, working on its final recommendations to Otter and the Legislature. The group passed 12 recommendations, all unanimously — starting with the new 60 percent recommendation.
In addition to talking about why Idaho needs to hit the 60 percent mark, the task force talked about how it could hit the mark.
The task force signed off on a formula to reach the 60 percent threshold by 2025. The math is based on increased enrollment at Idaho’s established colleges and universities; increased graduation rates at these schools; and an influx of online students and students at Idaho Falls’ fledgling College of Eastern Idaho.
Lokken called the math achievable — and even modest. And College of Western Idaho President Bert Glandon agreed.
“This is not brain surgery, close to brain surgery,” he said.
But that doesn’t mean the goals are a sure thing.
Getting more students to stay in college and complete their education — “productivity,” in the task force’s parlance — hinges upon state funding, BSU President Bob Kustra said.
In terms of tone, the new math behind the 60 percent goal represents a departure from earlier task force meetings. In June, the task force discussed the need to add 40,000 students into the higher education system — through traditional and digital programs.
The new 2025 goal isn’t as all-encompassing, Lokken said. For example, it doesn’t address “adult completers,” older students who still need credits to get their degree.
“You can only move the numbers so fast,” Lokken said.
The task force expects to complete its report by Oct. 1.
More reading: The task force’s 12 recommendations, at a glance.