Voters approve College of Eastern Idaho. What’s next?

IDAHO FALLS — Bonneville County voters have approved a measure to turn Eastern Idaho Technical College into a community college. So what’s next?

During the campaign, supporters touted EITC’s ready-made infrastructure and $5 million in community college seed money offered up by the 2017 Legislature as rationales for approving the proposal — which passed Tuesday with 71.4 percent support.

But transforming EITC into the College of Eastern Idaho still carries a variety of academic, infrastructural and financial implications.

Here’s a closer look at what comes next and when.

When will CEI officially open its doors? 

That’s still unclear, but it could be as early as this summer. EITC president Rick Aman said he is hoping for an Aug. 21 start date “but that depends on a few things, including accreditation.”

School officials are in the process of securing CEI’s community college accreditation from the Northwest Commission of Colleges and Universities. Once secured, accreditation will enable the school to start providing students with up to 40 additional classes, and associate degrees in both arts and sciences.

CEI must also await approval from the State Board of Education on at least two other fronts: appointing trustees and dividing Bonneville County into five community college zones.

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Like Idaho’s k-12 school districts, a school board will govern CEI, with each trustee representing a newly formed zone within the county. Though the SBE will initially appoint these trustees, other Bonneville County citizens will be able to challenge them in the November 2018 elections and thereafter.

SBE spokesman Blake Youde said members of the State Board will need to approve the county’s proposed community college zones by no later than June if the August start date is going to be a reality.

“That date is not unrealistic if we receive the map with the zones soon,” Youde said.

The SBE will then begin accepting applications from trustee candidates. If the August 21 start date doesn’t pan out due to procedural hold ups, Aman said, CEI would push the start date to January 2018.

How much is it going to raise property taxes?

That’s still up in the air, since projections rest largely on the amount of local tax revenue designated by future trustees.

Current projections put first-year local tax revenues at over $800,000, which would spur an annual tax increase of about $13.37 per $100,000 of taxable value in Bonneville County.

But these initial numbers are a guess because no one knows exactly how much local revenue future trustees will designate in year one — and because Idaho law allows community college trustees to raise the local revenue portions of their budgets by up to 3 percent annually from the year before, without bringing the issue to a public vote.

How will the change affect EITC students and staff? 

Aman said students currently enrolled in EITC’s career-technical programs won’t likely notice the shuffle. They’ll be able to continue in their current programs.

Aman also said EITC employees will be able to transition to their same positions under the new community college banner, but that new trustees will be tasked with appointing a new president — something that could leave Aman out of a job.

“I’ll probably throw my hat into the ring and apply,” he said. “My wife and I have grown to really like it here.”

How many additional students are expected to enroll?
Can EITC’s current facilities accommodate them?

Enrollment is expected to increase by 800 students in the first year and by 3,700 by the sixth year.

Though EITC currently serves 700 students, Aman said the school’s current facilities are equipped to absorb up to 4,450, or about 800 students simultaneously.

As for now, future infrastructural upgrades will likely happen on a per classroom basis, Aman said. For example, the school currently possesses enough classroom space to absorb future enrollment estimates, but some classrooms may need to be converted into computer labs to meet a community college’s more complex curricular demands.

How will CEI’s tuition compare to other colleges in the area? 

Current estimates put CEI’s per-credit tuition at about $125, or roughly one-third of Idaho State University’s $325.

BYU-Idaho’s tuition isn’t so clear-cut, with full-time, single Latter-Day Saint students paying $1,960 per semester, or $163 per credit when enrolled in fewer than 12 credits. Non-LDS, full-time students pay $3,920 per semester, or $326 per credit when enrolled in fewer than 12 credits.

Idaho’s “Fast Forward” program also gives area high school students access to a greater variety of dual credit courses for $65 per credit — a luxury that helped the proposal garner support from local superintendents, like Idaho Falls School District’s George Boland.