Idaho’s largest two-year college wants to offer its first four-year degree

Idaho’s largest two-year college wants to offer its first four-year degree.

The College of Western Idaho could launch a bachelor’s program in business administration next fall, if the State Board of Education signs on.

The program — known as a bachelor of applied science degree — would meld academic and career-technical classes, and could allow students to receive a degree for about $20,000 in tuition costs.

College of Western Idaho President Gordon Jones

“That may move more people into a skilled workforce,” CWI President Gordon Jones said Thursday afternoon, after trustees unanimously endorsed the new program.

The four-year degree would be a first at CWI, and a rarity in Idaho education. There is only one such program in the state — a College of Southern Idaho program in “operations management,” focused on the food processing industry.

Applied degrees are not uncommon nationally, however. Community colleges in 23 states offer four-year degrees, CWI officials say. And 21 community colleges in neighboring states offer applied bachelor’s degrees in business-related fields.

Boise State University, the University of Idaho and Idaho State University all offer bachelor’s programs in business administration. But CWI officials believe their program would fill a unique niche — serving older, non-traditional students; students who want to parlay their CTE credits into an academic degree; and high school graduates who are worried about the cost of four-year college.

“(These students) are not likely the traditional four-year bachelor of arts student profile,” said CWI board chair Molly Lenty.

The CWI program would open “more access and opportunity for students,” she said.

In a lengthy resolution endorsing the new program, trustees pointed to a workforce demand. Within the past year, employers within 100 miles of CWI’s Nampa campus posted 18,000 listings for business-related jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree.

In the future, Jones said CWI could branch into bachelor’s programs in two other high-demand fields: teaching and health care.

For the time being, the focus is on business administration.

CWI has cash in hand to cover the $500,000 startup costs, without going to the Legislature for a line item, Jones said. The college has master’s- and doctoral-trained faculty on staff who can take on the program, and curriculum is in hand.

The biggest hurdle is State Board approval.

The State Board is likely to take up the proposal in December.

But in a March 3 letter to House Education Committee members, Executive Director Matt Freeman said applied bachelor’s degree proposals “would be viewed favorably” by the State Board.

In the letter, Freeman noted that the State Board had already adopted a series of criteria to review proposals from CWI, CSI and the College of Eastern Idaho. The proposed programs would need to meet the board’s criteria, and meet local workforce needs.

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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