Last year, nearly 10,000 Idaho high school seniors applied for admission to our state’s public post-secondary institutions. That fall, 2,600 recent graduates did not show up. That is why we have drafted legislation known as Idaho Promise to remove the barriers that prevent Idahoans from obtaining the training and education they want and need.
Idaho Promise would provide “last dollar” scholarships to students seeking certificates and associate degrees at Idaho’s community colleges, regardless of age or income. This will fast track more Idahoans to good paying careers in fields our state needs most. It will also help provide a foundation for students who choose to continue toward a bachelor’s degree. To receive Idaho Promise scholarships, students would first need to seek other available financial aid and provide community service as investments in their own futures.
Some states learned the hard way that scholarships are not enough and that students must have additional support to succeed. Overtime, many of these states added support services resulting in increased enrollment and completion rates. From the beginning, Idaho’s Promise would provide the support students require.
Over the past three years, high school counselors throughout the state have told us that most students are willing and interested in completing training or education after high school, but that they need consistent guidance as they transition from high school and some financial assistance.
A preliminary analysis suggests that the scholarships and extra supports would be around $18 million per year. Several factors would immediately mitigate this cost. For example, 2018 figures show more than half of Idaho’s community college students are eligible for Pell Grants with an average award of close to $4,000 per year. These grants will substantially reduce the “last dollar” contribution made by Idaho Promise. Idaho Opportunity scholarships are already available, with awards between $3400 and $3500 per year, again significantly reducing the cost of Idaho Promise. Finally, Idaho students enrolled in nearly 58,000 dual credit courses in 2018, shaving off the number of post-secondary courses they needed to complete after high school graduation.
Over the next several months, we will work with educators, advocacy groups, business leaders, state agencies, and the general public to refine Idaho Promise. We already have ample evidence that states which invest in education like this realize a wide range of benefits. Every additional year of training or education results in a 7 to 10 percent jump in a student’s earning capacity, higher state tax revenues and decreased use of social services. These increased tax revenues are substantially higher than the cost of post-secondary training or education.
By law, Idaho promises to establish and maintain a general, uniform and thorough system of public, free common schools. It is time to add to that promise and fund a proven approach toward increasing post-secondary attainment.
Written by Sen. Grant Burgoyne, who represents District 16 (Garden City and parts of Boise) in the Legislature, and Jean M. Henscheid, Ph.D., an education policy analyst and fellow at the National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition.